ESPN is airing the final table of the main event of the World Series of Poker. This happens every year. In recent years, however, the final hands have been shown pseudo-live; everything is being broadcast on a brief delay, but instead of the final show airing weeks or months after the tournament ends, now you will see the winning hand within minutes of when it happens.
I’m cool with this; I’ve always felt like it was ill-advised to record a live sporting event to watch later, and in the 24-hour news cycle/age of the internet, it’s especially tough to avoid seeing the final result. Now, I don’t consider poker a sport, either, but if you’re going to watch the broadcasts, I’m sure it used to be really difficult to avoid seeing the results of the tournament.
What I’m not cool with, however, is when this is taking place. It’s not that I have a problem with the WSOP being contested in November. Not at all. My problem is that it’s not actually being contested in November.
No, over 6,300 entrants began the tournament…four months ago. That’s right, the event began on July 6, playing all the way down to nine players on July 15…and then stopped for four months.
The concept of the “November Nine” was created to add some excitement and some build-up to the final table. Unfortunately, what you’re actually doing is creating a new tournament: there’s one that happened in July, and there were nine winners; now there is a nine-person event in November for the bracelet and the cash.
Think about it like this: imagine if the NFL playoffs happened in January, as normal, but instead of taking two weeks off, the Super Bowl was played in May. Pretty stupid, right? It wouldn’t even be the same season or playoffs by that point; the weather changes, banged up guys get healthy, and healthy players get banged up. No. You play the playoffs, and then you play the Super Bowl.
In this case, you’re spending four months getting tutoring, practicing, and becoming a completely different player than you were when you first sat down. In what way is that fair? Pitchers don’t get a couple days to rest their arms between the sixth and seventh innings of World Series games; why should an amateur poker player get time to essentially become a professional while he waits to compete for the championship?
I hate gimmicks like this. I say this about the NHL’s annual Winter Classic every year, and my mind has yet to change. Stop doing this stuff. If your event can’t stand on its own, don’t go compromising the integrity of the competition in a desperate attempt to increase television ratings. Instead, make your event or league worth caring about in the first place. I can’t stand it. It’s stupid.
Then again, if you’re offering me eight million dollars, I’d play wherever, whenever, but still.