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ESPN Shuffles the Deck for World Series of Poker Coverage

10 June 2009

The World Series of Poker, which starts May 26 and runs through July 15 at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, is a staple of the programming on ESPN.

Even though last year's coverage of the final table for the main event earned a sports Emmy nomination for the network's production team, ESPN is going to make some changes for this year's 40th anniversary celebration of the poker world's greatest spectacle.

"You're going to be seeing a little bit of a different dynamic in overall programming structure for 2009," said Doug White, senior director of programming and acquisitions for ESPN.

Last year ESPN produced 31 shows, which averaged a 0.9 household rating, which translates into 919,000 homes and 1,126,000 viewers. The figures represented increases of 13 percent and 15 percent respectively over 2007.

"We feel that the main event is what viewers are looking for," White said. Consequently, coverage of that high profile competition will be increased to 24 hours whereas coverage of the other 56 gold bracelet events will be scaled back to six hours.

Last year's experiment with a delayed final table for the main event will be repeated. This year's $10,000 buy-in World Championship will be held July 3 - 15. When the final table of nine players is reached, play will be suspended until Nov. 7 – 10.

ESPN will be producing 25 one-hour episodes covering the main event including a two-hour special of same-day coverage of the final table.

This year's championship weekend will be expanded with play from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. taking place on Sat. Nov. 7. Then it will be "heads up" for the gold bracelet on Tues. Nov. 10 before a live audience.

The only other bracelet events to be televised by ESPN this year will be the Special 40th Annual $40,000 No-Limit Hold-Em Event to be held May 28 – 31: the World Series of Poker Champions Invitational set for May 31 – June 1; and the Ante Up for Africa Celebrity-Charity Event scheduled for July 2.

One of the changes to be implemented for this year's competition by WSOP commissioner Jeffrey Pollack is putting the bracelet ceremonies in the spotlight.

"The WSOP gold bracelet is poker's crown jewel," Pollack said. "For some time I've felt that every bracelet, not just our main event bracelet, deserves a special ceremony.

"This year, in the tradition of the Olympics, we'll have a bracelet ceremony on the floor of the Amazon Ballroom inside the Rio every day at 2:00 p.m. We want to bring the winners into the spotlight where they truly belong."

Pollack also revealed that a code of player conduct is being incorporated into the tournament's official rules for the first time this year, and that a written real-time log of all warnings and penalties issued throughout the competition will be kept.

"The intent here is simple," Pollack said. "We want to better ensure that the tournament floor is a civil, courteous and comfortable environment for all players while better managing those players who break the rules of engagement, or fail to conduct themselves appropriately. It will also further protect the competitive integrity of the WSOP. Our officials will be watching, tracking and enforcing like never before."

John G. Brokopp

John G. Brokopp's gaming column appears in Chicago Sun Times (Chicago, Illinois), The Times (Northwest Indiana), The Quad City Times (Davenport, Iowa), The Courier News (Elgin, Illinois), The Gazette (Southwest Suburban Chicago) and Senior Wire (Denver, CO). He's also a regular contributor to The Colorado Gambler, Midwest Gaming & Travel, Casino Player and Strictly Slots. John possesses 28 years of experience as a professional handicapper, publicist, freelance writer, and casino gaming correspondent. He is also the author of two very popular books, The Insider’s Guide to Internet Gambling and Thrifty Gambling.

Books by John G. Brokopp:

> More Books By John G. Brokopp

John G. Brokopp
John G. Brokopp's gaming column appears in Chicago Sun Times (Chicago, Illinois), The Times (Northwest Indiana), The Quad City Times (Davenport, Iowa), The Courier News (Elgin, Illinois), The Gazette (Southwest Suburban Chicago) and Senior Wire (Denver, CO). He's also a regular contributor to The Colorado Gambler, Midwest Gaming & Travel, Casino Player and Strictly Slots. John possesses 28 years of experience as a professional handicapper, publicist, freelance writer, and casino gaming correspondent. He is also the author of two very popular books, The Insider’s Guide to Internet Gambling and Thrifty Gambling.

Books by John G. Brokopp:

> More Books By John G. Brokopp