ESPN only airing two WSOP bracelet events

27 April 2009

This year's World Series of Poker has 57 events. But you'll only get to see two of them on TV. ESPN's newly released TV schedule for the 2009 WSOP includes coverage of the Main Event, a special $40,000 buy-in No-Limit Hold'em tournament to celebrate the WSOP's 40th anniversary and two non-bracelet events -- the Ante up for Africa charity tournament and the WSOP Champions Invitational. The $50,000 H.O.R.S.E. tournament will not be shown on ESPN this year.

This year's broadcast schedule is a distinct departure from the last two seasons on ESPN.

Last year, ESPN aired six WSOP bracelet tournaments including the Main Event. Two non-Hold'em events were televised -- the H.O.R.S.E. tournament and a Pot-Limit Omaha tournament. In 2007, ESPN broadcast 10 bracelet tournaments, including one Omaha and one Stud tournament.

This year, ESPN will show two one-hour episodes a night starting on July 28 with the $40,000 No-Limit Hold'em tournament, which should feature the game's top pros. The actual tournament runs from May 28-31.

The Champions Invitational will be a No-Limit Hold'em tournament limited to the 27 living prior Main Event champions and it begins May 31. ESPN will air the tournament on Aug. 4.

The third annual Ante Up for Africa celebrity poker tournament, which raised $1.2 million for survivors of the humanitarian crisis in Darfur, Sudan, takes place on July 2 and will air on Aug. 11.

The Main Event telecasts begin Aug. 18 and end on Nov. 10. Each day of the tournament will receive two hours of coverage on ESPN. Like last year, the WSOP will pause live play in the Main Event in July when the final table is set in an effort in build up drama for the final-table telecast. After a 115-day break, final table action will resume on Nov. 7 and the final nine players will play down to two. Heads-up action will begin during the day on Nov. 10, with the champion being crowned potentially minutes before the 9 p.m. ET start time for the special two-hour finale on ESPN.

Last year, ESPN had around 15 hours to insert heads-up play into its taped coverage of the final table, but only showed two hands. ESPN's same-day coverage of the final table last year earned a 1.9 rating, up 36% from 1.4 for the final showdown in 2007. The number also represents 1,905,000 homes and 2,364,000 viewers in the average minute. Those are increases of 43% in homes (from 1,329,000) and 45% among viewers (from 1,635,000).


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