BY RUSS SCOTT
OCTOBER 14, 2008
WSOP FINAL-TABLE TELECAST ON TIGHT TIMELINE
Of all the questions raised when it was revealed the World Series of Poker main event final table would be delayed four months and then aired in near real time on Nov. 11, one surprised me.
Ken L. of New Jersey asked, “Will the fast TV production of the final-table action cause the commentary to suffer from a lack of time to think of witty comments?”
I like clever one-liners during a poker telecast as much as anyone, but Ken’s question brought up an even bigger issue: How will ESPN produce — in just a few hours — a quality prime-time broadcast of poker’s most highly-anticipated televised event?
The schedule is daunting.
The nine final-table competitors resume action at the Rio in Las Vegas on Nov. 9, when they’ll play down to the final two. That could take 10 hours or longer. The heads-up battle for the $9.1 million first-place prize will start late at night on Nov. 10, after mainstream media’s nightly news cycle ends.
That will leave precious few hours on Nov. 11 to prepare that night’s three-hour historic final-table episode, with most viewers unaware of the outcome until they see it on TV.
So, how will the production crew and announcers Lon McEachern and Norman Chad pull off in just hours what typically takes days or weeks to do?
For answers, I turned to Oliver “Ali” Nejad, whose list of televised-poker credits beyond NBC’s Poker After Dark include announcing last year’s long WSOP final table live on ESPN Pay Per View.
“I don’t know their exact deadline times, but I do know they won’t be easy to make,” said Nejad.
Complicating the timeline is the editing process, which typically includes a screening of the final product. “Any well-done broadcast is watched once before making air,” Nejad said.
“I expect the first portion of play (down to heads-up) will be handled first, likely while the heads-up play is happening,” said Nejad. “Once that’s done and a winner is crowned, the second portion of footage will be cut and prepped for Lon and Norm to voice.”
He said McEachern and Chad will proceed much as they do on other WSOP telecasts, except with a significantly tighter timeline.
“Both spend a considerable amount of time around the final table as play goes on, to help build story lines for the broadcast and make observations that cameras might otherwise miss,” Nejad said.
He noted that post-produced content is “more involved” than live television and “requires more patience.” Multiple takes often are needed “to properly space and insert your voice-over thoughts between table talk, or to avoid making comments that the players themselves might make. It is a slower and more deliberate dance.”
He likened the final-table telecast confronting 441 Productions to NBC’s coverage of the recent Olympics. “That was exactly the same as what will be asked of ESPN’s WSOP crew in Las Vegas,” Nejad said. In Beijing, events were shot, edited and voiced within 24 hours for airing in the U.S.
One production shortcut not in the cards is allowing the announcers access to the hole-card cams, which would expedite their voice-over work. “That area is very secured and accessible only to authorized production staff,” Nejad said.
Nor will the announcers likely be involved in hand selection or editing for the show — tasks typically handled by the production company. “An announcer’s responsibility is covering a hand as informatively as possible, giving it context based on their knowledge of table action the broadcast may have omitted,” Nejad said.
Despite the production challenges, Nejad expects the final-table show will measure up to the goal of “increasing interest and anticipation in the outcome of this year’s main event.”
But what about Norman Chad’s witty comments? Well, it’s a safe bet he’ll find time to work them into the telecast.
“I’m taking the over on 3.5 ex-wife jokes by Norm,” quipped Nejad.
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.
COPYRIGHT 2008 RUSS SCOTT
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