ESPN Drops the Ball on WSOP Coverage

27 July 2006

Phil Hellmuth's 10th bracelet win was perhaps the single most memorable moment of the 2006 World Series of Poker (WSOP) to date. The play at the final table, however, will not be widely seen, as ESPN had not scheduled the tournament for broadcast.

While a small camera crew was there to record history, it's likely that the coverage will receive the same treatment that Johnny Chan's 10th bracelet win received last year. Chan's win in a Pot-Limit Hold'em event was packaged with another tournament, and ESPN spliced in a few key hands from Chan's win along the way.

When we scheduled my trip to Vegas for this week, I was supposed to be covering the Bodog Marketing Conference. While that conference was cancelled last week, the post-conference party was still set to go on Tuesday night. I was looking forward to the party because my colleague Rebecca Liggero had told me how much fun she always has at the event.

I also had professional reasons for attending the party, as I planned to write a story about the cancellation of the conference and other ripple effects of the arrest and detention of David Carruthers, the former CEO of BetOnSports.com.

I changed my plans because Hellmuth's quest for poker history was the biggest story of the day. One can only wonder why ESPN couldn't change their plans as well. I'm certainly not the world-wide leader in sports, but last I checked, it's a journalist's job to determine what stories are the most important and cover them appropriately. If ESPN can send Pedro Gomez and a camera crew everywhere Barry Bonds goes, certainly they could have taped another final table at the WSOP.

ESPN has become an important partner in the growth of the World Series of Poker. No doubt the excellent coverage the cable sports channel provides, along with the entertaining commentary of Norman Chad, have helped produce the ever-expanding fields and record prize pools the tournaments have seen this year.

But ESPN dropped the ball on this one. I'm glad that I was there to witness history, and I wish that fans of televised poker would have the opportunity to see it too.


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