The World Series of Poker Main Event is set to resume November 8th, with the annual November Nine. It’s the biggest event each year in poker, one that should capture the attention and interest of even the most casual poker fan.
Unfortunately it is also one of the most boring televised competitions there is. The action is slow, players take forever to make even the most obvious decisions and then go into the tank for extended periods when faced with a difficult decision.
I love the thrill and excitement of the final table, but watching what amounts to a sit-n-go take nearly two days to finish takes away some of the luster. Last year’s final table lasted for 328 hands! It’s not as bad as watching paint dry, but it’s getting pretty close.
Pick Up the Pace
Blinds only change every two hours in the Main Event. Once you get to the November Nine, why not pick up the pace and change the blinds every hour on the first day, and then every 30 minutes once the field is reduced to the final three?
It took 56 hands and three-and-a-half hours just to eliminate the first player in 2014. NFL games don’t last that long! After William Tonking was eliminated in fourth place in 2014, it took another 69 hands, or more than two hours of play, to get rid of Jorryt Van Hoof in third place. College basketball games don’t last that long.
Hole Card Cam v. 2.0
When the hole card camera was added to television broadcasts in the early 2000s, it made it much more interesting to viewers because they could see what the players were holding. But while hole cards were available for the regular coverage of the Main Event, the one-hour highlight packages, and the desire to show the final table live, it kept ESPN from being able to show the hole cards until after a hand was complete.
This reduced analysts like Antonio Esfandiari to constantly guess at what the players had, which added nothing to the broadcast. Last year, ESPN showed the final table on a 30-minute delay and was able to show hole cards throughout the broadcast of the final table.
A subtle change would make the final table much more compelling. Don’t show any hole cards during the pre-flop round of betting until a player makes a bet, and then only show his cards until he is out of the hand. This will increase the excitement for the viewers by allowing them to play along with this player.
Stats would Help as Well
There should be some way to maintain key stats for each player, percentage of flops seen, number of hands won, VPIP percentage, how many times he check-raises, etc. As it is, the only stat that ESPN routinely shows is the amount of chips per each player and how many BBs each has. Some advance level stats could make it a little more interesting.
Tick Tock, Let’s get a Clock
Announcers refer to it as Hollywooding, which describes when players take an inordinate amount of time to make a decision because they know this is their moment for a closeup on the TV broadcast.
It doesn’t seem to be as much of an issue at the final table, as each of the players knows they are going to get quality face time during the event, but every once in a while you run into a hand that seemingly takes forever, like this one from the 2013 final table – 4 and a half minutes, and they didn’t even see a flop?
The tournament rules allow for a reasonable amount of time, “no less than two minutes” to pass before any player at the table can call for a clock, which gives his opponent another minute. However, players are reluctant to call for a clock, and so usually they all just sit there watching the two players in the hand take turns riffling their chips (speaking of which, I would like to see a ban on chip-riffling! Give it up fellas. No one is impressed anymore).
For the final table, I propose the WSOP institute an automatic 90-second clock for the pre-flop, flop and turn betting rounds, as well as, increase the clock to 2 minutes for the final round. Take the decision out of the players’ hands and just make it automatic.
Each player could also be given a five-minute time bank to be used in those few instances where they really do need more time to think and aren’t just Hollywooding.
If they don’t make a decision within the 90 seconds, they are automatically folded or checked, if there has been no action in front of them.
The November Nine is great fun for poker fans. ESPN is constantly adding wrinkles to its broadcast to make it more interesting, but it’s time for WSOP officials to step in and make some changes as well.