For the four years of its existence, the World Series of Poker Europe has been treated like a faint echo of its American counterpart. Professional players focus the majority of their attention on the 57 events of the traditional WSOP, and the fans and media follow suit. This year, the WSOPE is allotted a token amount of coverage on ESPN2, airing only four hours of the main event, compared to the North American WSOP's 32 hours of coverage on the more prestigious original ESPN network.
In spite of that fact, this may be the year for the WSOPE to get more coverage than ever before. On September 21st, poker analyst Andrew Feldman announced in a posting on ESPN.com that the final two days of the WSOPE's main event will be broadcast on ESPN3, the online branch of the ESPN family of networks. In a world where television ratings continue to suffer at the hands of internet video, a deal like this is a tremendous boon to the WSOPE.
The stream will be delayed from real time by five hours, which, for those of us accustomed to live airings of our favorite poker tournaments, could be disappointing. The ace in the hole, so to speak, for ESPN3 is that the online broadcast will show hole cards for most of the hands. More specifically, hole cards will be displayed on all hands that reach a flop, or that involve a preflop decision of over a minute.
The WSOPE main event, which features a hefty buy-in of 10,350 Euros, will get underway on September 23rd. Based on last year's 334 entries, the starting field this year is expected to be in the range of 300-400. By the start of September 27th, the tournament's penultimate day of play, that number will have been whittled down to 27. The online coverage will pick up the action at that poin, and follow as the final table bubble approaches and then pops. On the 28th, ESPN3 will stream the final table in its entirety.
The broadcast will effectively bridge the gap between condensed, highly edited coverage that we typically see on ESPN, and live, unedited streams that tournament directors sometimes make available for notable events that aren't already receiving televised coverage. Players may find it beneficial to watch--with hole cards--a final table straight through. Most edited poker programs skip through so many small, unexciting pots that it's hard to get a feel for the ebb and flow of the table. This opportunity to almost-live sweat a final table from start to finish will be invaluable to competitive players. And with quality comentary from Dave Tuchman, Bart Hanson, and a cavalcade of guests, it will be an entertaining show for all grinders, recreational players, and just plain fans. Catch the broadcast at www.espn3.com starting at noon ET on the 27th and the 28th.
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