WSOP did right thing moving final table from November to TV friendly July

WSOP did right thing moving final table from November to TV friendly July

July 25, 2017 3:10 AM


Reflecting back on this year’s WSOP Main Event, I believe it was a good move to change from the old Nov. 9 format to playing it out in July.

This change created a lot of excitement and had people talking about the Main Event all over the gaming industry. I believe the broadcast changes contributed to the third largest turnout in WSOP history with 7,221 players.

This momentum kept building with so many storylines fueled by amateur John Hesp’s Cinderella story. Hesp, 64, from Bridlington, England is a grandfather of seven whose biggest cash before the WSOP was first place for $1,000 in his regular Sunday rebuy tournament at Napoleons Casino & Restaurant in Hull last month.

When he made the final 27 last Monday, he posted this on his Facebook page:

“Most people will know I seldom post on Facebook but I wanted to let you all know that I am having the most surreal experience of my life… I am truly “living the dream.”

John put the fun back into the game we love. He was polite, humble and ended up in fourth place winning $2.5 million for his efforts.

The final three players – Scott Blumstein from New Jersey, Daniel Ott from Pennsylvania and Frenchman Benjamin Pollak from Paris – returned Saturday with two of the three players having no real experience in the WSOP.

It was a very exciting finish with two 25-year-old players going head to head.

Blumstein held a commanding lead all three days after his trip aces dealt a blow to co-leader Hesp who had the top two pair; that hand was the game changer.

Blumstein would go wire to wire to win the 2017 WSOP Main Event for over $8 million, beating out Ott who finished second for $4.7 million. The first player out on Saturday was Pollak who was the only professional poker player in the final three. He won $3.5 million for his third place finish.

This year’s WSOP brought back memories of my final table appearance in 1994, reflecting on how much it meant to me. Poker is so much bigger today than it was then.

No one could have imagined poker would become the global phenomenon it is today. The WSOP announced a partnership with Tencent, the number one gaming publisher from China.

The WSOP-Tencent partnership will expand poker in Asia along with producing live events, training of staff and teaching future players. Tencent is now worth $300 billion and among the world’s top 10 most valuable companies, joining the likes of Apple and Google.

Years ago I had a vision of streaming cash poker games on the Internet. That led me to create the first live streaming of cash poker games at the Bicycle Casino, which became Live at the Bike. That was 15 years ago.

Now that vision has evolved into this year’s WSOP Main Event being broadcast and streamed from Day 1. Partnering with PokerGo, a digital video subscription service that gives fans access to exclusive live poker tournaments, added more media excitement.

They did a masterful job with this year’s WSOP. The broadcast team for streaming and TV kept it moving at a fast pace. I kept asking my wife to put the World Series on our TV; she just handed me her tablet instead.

ESPN commentator Norman Chad was very entertaining this year. He even dressed up as Hesp to provide humor. The all-star broadcast team included Daniel Negreanu, Phil Hellmuth, Lon McEachern, and Kara Scott.

Others were David Tuchman who started on Live at the Bike. Antonio Esfandiari, Phil and Daniel – all great pros who provided color and insight of the game we loved. It will be interesting to see the final number of viewers of the 2017 WSOP.

Lastly, I want to congratulate this year’s two WSOP Hall of Fame inductees, Phil Ivey and David “Devilfish” Ulliott. They became the Hall of Fame’s 53rd and 54th individuals to enter poker’s most exclusive club.

First-time eligible Ivey was a lock with 10 WSOP bracelets to his credit and $23,856,034 in live poker winnings. He is arguably the most famous poker player in the world.

Ulliott, who passed away from cancer in April 2015, gets the ultimate recognition in poker for his role in growing the game in England.

His family commented on this year’s Main Event saying: “One thing we know he would be happy about is the progress of Hesp in the Main Event, a regular at Napoleons. John represents what poker is all about– a true game of the people.”

I couldn’t agree more. Rest in peace.

Twitter: @thechipburner