ESPN: The Worldwide Leader in Televised Poker

27 September 2006

The ESPN broadcast of the 2006 World Series of Poker Main Event wrapped up last night, and the network once again outclassed all the other televised poker programs.

While other poker shows offer a more critical analysis of play, ESPN is the most entertaining.

By weaving in expertly-crafted player biographies between hands and adding short entertaining features like "The Nuts," ESPN created a show that anyone can enjoy -- including people who don't know how to play the game. Add in the witty repartee of commentators Lon McEachern and Norman Chad and the most intense action in the world and you get the best poker show on television.

Who can forget the poker players impersonating other players edition of The Nuts? Or even better, the edition that pits Daniel Negreanu and Erick Lindgren against Doyle Brunson and Barry Greenstein in a three-hole golf match for $50,000 a hole? If you didn't see it, watch the reruns. Doyle has maybe the best line of all time. You have to see it to be believe it. (I can't find it on YouTube … if you see it, please send me a link.)

But beyond entertainment, ESPN did something I wasn't sure the self-proclaimed "Worldwide Leader in Sports" would do: The broadcast noted that the tournament wasn't all "Golden."

Early on in the final table coverage, a graphic lists the players remaining and their chip stacks. McEachern notes: "If you are really quick with math you might notice there are more than $2 million extra chips in play that may be due to a miscount during the color up of chips. So now there's a little more than $90 million chips at the final table."

Harrah's is currently investigating how the extra chips were put in play, and while no formal announcement has been made, including it in the broadcast was the right thing to do.

In addition, after showing Jamie Gold's phone call to his father immediately following his victory, the network added an ESPNEWS segment that addressed the lawsuit filed against Gold by a person seeking half of his winnings.

"Since the final table of the World Series was taped things have not gone so smoothly for Jamie Gold," said David Lloyd in the report. "Bruce Crispin Leyser is suing Gold, claiming that Gold entered into an agreement to split half of his winnings with Leyser. There is no written agreement, but Leyser allegedly has a voicemail left by Gold which states: 'I promise you, you can keep this recording on my word, there's no possible way you're not going to get half after taxes.' Leyser says the deal was made when Leyser helped Gold recruit celebrities to wear a poker Web site's apparel. Half of Gold's winnings have been withheld pending the case."

While these seem like obvious details to include, ESPN hasn't always had the best judgment when it comes to poker. And while the blemishes that ESPN pointed out may tarnish the prestige of the WSOP, it would be more damaging if the televised broadcast ignored them completely.


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