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The wait might not really be worth it
The 2013 WSOP Final Table will start in just a few hours and while the whole poker world gets ready for the cards to be dealt, it is hard to ignore the elephant in the room. Has the November Nine system become outdated?
The current system of the WSOP Main Event was introduced in 2008, after a pretty forgettable final table in 2007 and small coverage ratings. In order to make sure that they get as much attention from the public as possible, the WSOP decided to play the Main Event until the final table during the regular summer in Las Vegas and then pause the action for three or so months. This would mean that the final table would be played in early November – ergo the name November Nine; although last year it was played in late October due to some schedule changes.
Building a storyline
On paper, the November Nine system looks great. ESPN has time to take all the coverage from the tournament and air the episodes across the weeks leading to the final table and build up hype for the live coverage in November. This makes the main argument that players are less likely to watch the episodes if they already know the results and in all fairness, it is almost impossible to not learn about the results of such a big tournament for a couple of months until you find out on TV.
However, even with the current system there are some pretty big spoilers. Granted, you don’t know who the winner is but you do know who will make the final table while watching the over 20 episodes on TV. Which means that people don’t watch to just know the results, they want to see how the results happen. Most of the viewers are avid poker players in the first place and they are more interested in the actual poker action than the pictures at the end of the tournament.
So, the main reason for the long pause leading to the November Nine is not to prevent spoilers but to create more marketing hype for the WSOP brand. Again, this sounds like a great idea on paper as news headlines about the final table get twice as much coverage – once when the table is set and again in November. However, ESPN has been doing a very bad job promoting the tournament and there is simply no storyline created through the cut-down episodes that would create more hype for the final table than it already was at the end of the summer.
To sponsor or not to sponsor?
At this point, you might argue that the three months allow players to get sponsorship deals and that this helps the November Nine get more benefits which they wouldn’t get otherwise, thus making it even more important to reach the final table in a WSOP Main Event. And you would be right saying this, if we were in the pre-Black Friday days, when PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker battled each other to get their logos on players’ chests.
Now, the concept is almost non-existent. Any player worth one of the rare great sponsorship deals already has one and being a November Niner doesn’t change anything. In fact, not even winning the Main Event doesn’t guarantee a good deal. Out of the past 7 WSOP champions, only Jonathan Duhamel has a decent sponsorship deal.
2013 November Nine – JC Tran at home