BY RUSS SCOTT
JUNE 24, 2008
WSOP CHATTER: PROS WINNING, MAIN-EVENT DELAY
Two topics dominate chatter at the 2008 World Series of Poker in Las Vegas — the groundbreaking four-month delay of the main event’s final table and the number of bracelets poker pros have won so far.
Big-name pros such as Barry Greenstein, Daniel Negreanu, Erick Lindgren, Layne Flack, Mike Matusow and others had won about one-third of the 38 tournaments held through Sunday. With 16 open events left, the 39th annual WSOP already is being called the “Year of the Pro.”
The victories are fueling speculation a pro might capture the main event for the first time since 2001. We’ll tackle that next week.
Meanwhile, Stephen K. of Austin, Texas, e-mailed this series of questions about the final-table delay that mirror conversations at the WSOP for the past month:
* Why are they changing something that works?
WSOP commissioner Jeffrey Pollack and the pros on the WSOP players advisory council always look for ways to enhance the tournament. By delaying the main event final table from July 14 until November, they’re banking on a big spike in TV ratings and general interest around the world to see who wins.
* Does this hurt a player on a hot streak?
Almost certainly, yes. Aside from interrupting a player’s good run of cards, the key factor is that a player “in the zone” is getting a good read on opponents and creating a table image which helps maximize wins and minimize losses. A four-month delay brings that momentum to a screeching halt.
The flip side is that the delay could rescue a player who is on tilt or not playing “A-game” poker. That player gets a chance to regroup.
* Does this hurt the amateurs more than the pros?
No, just the opposite, Stephen. The amateurs, knowing they have a big payday coming, will secure professional help to improve their game — including tactics to use against specific opponents. For their mentoring, pros likely will charge an amateur 5 percent or more of his winnings.
One key factor I haven’t seen announced is whether final-nine seating will be determined in July or November. If they draw for final-table seats in July, the amateurs also can get specific table-position betting tips that will help. Pros already know how to shift gears to deal with opponents.
Another point: Pros are much more used to the mental and physical drain of a long tournament. They lose that edge with the delay.
* I think this change destroys the essence of the tournament. Has this ever been done before at a lesser tournament, just to see if it works? How does this earn the WSOP more money or stature?
You could be correct about this affecting the tournament’s essence, especially if you believe that grinding it out to conclusion for 11 stressful days is part of establishing a champion. One upside is that with a long time for preparation, we could see the best-played final table ever.
No, I’m not aware of any tournament that has done anything remotely close to this. I believe a one-day gap previously has been used before playing a main-event final table, but nothing like this. As for money and stature, it’s safe to say WSOP officials think this will increase both.
* Last year, I recorded the final table on pay-per-view. It took 26 hours. Are we really going to have to sit through all the folded hands?
No. The final nine will play down to two on Nov. 9. Those two will start their heads-up battle late on Nov. 10 (after deadlines for mainstream media) and finish in the early morning hours of Nov. 11. ESPN will edit the two days of play into a prime-time three-hour finale airing that night.
* Will we have to hear someone like Jerry Yang, last year’s champion, pray his brains out on every hand? Is this good TV?
Ha! You can count on the camera zooming in on “characters” at the final table, whether they’re praying, grunting like a gorilla (remember Hevad Khan last year?), or trash-talking an opponent. I can do without the grunting, but the rest is OK with me.
* What witty remarks will the TV announcers be able to come up with if they don’t have extensive background work done?
The announcers, along with the rest of the world, will have ample time to learn plenty about the final nine. I expect the telecast’s content — witty comments and all — to be consistent with the rest of the WSOP shows.
E-mail your poker questions and comments to email@example.com for use in future columns. To find out more about Russ Scott and read previous LuckyDog Poker columns, visit www.creators.com or www.luckydogpoker.com.
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