If there are three events at the WSOP that definitely merit televised coverage, they're the Main Event, the H.O.R.S.E. event, and the Ladies No-Limit Hold'em event. The Main Event is an obvious choice, because it's what it all comes down to. It's a chance to win the big title, be crowned World Champion and have poker celebrity status for the rest of your days.
Second is the H.O.R.S.E. event. For one, the buy-in is crazy - $50,000 to get a seat in this tournament, which means only la crème de la crème of the poker world will be entering. And it really is a sight to behold. Where else do you get to see Phil Hellmuth and Mike Matusow sitting together at a table making side bets on who will be running naked through the tournament area if the other wins the event? There's at least three big names to a table, and that's just day one.
Last is the Ladies No-Limit Hold'em event. This event is special because there just aren't enough women playing poker. Even though the number of entrants in this year's event doubled from last year (1,128 from 601), the female poker player is still the albino rhino of the poker world. So when you've got a field of serious poker players proving that they can play with the big boys, it's pretty darn exciting.
So why no TV coverage of the Ladies final table? Hands-down it was probably one of the most exciting and emotionally-charged final tables I've witnessed yet at the WSOP. But not one camera could be found capturing it all. It was pretty disappointing I must say, and I'm not the only one who thinks so.
In fact, it didn't even really cross my mind until the crowd voiced their discontent with the whole situation on more than one occasion. One spectator kept muttering, "No respect. Women get no respect," when referring to the delay in exchanging chips for greater denominations as the blinds and betting levels increased. Another older gentleman kept looking around in vain asking, "Aren't they televising this? Where's the camera crew?"
And speaking of the crowd, they were fantastic, probably the most excited crowd I've seen to date at the WSOP. When the Ladies event was down to six tables, several supporters clambered onto chairs to get a better view while shouting and cheering. There was cat-calling from the sidelines (by other women) and words of encouragement thrown at every bad beat. The energy was contagious, and you couldn't help but laugh along.
When it got down to the final table, the ladies didn't even get to battle it out on center stage right away. They were placed at a regular table in the middle of daily tournament action and had to wait until the No-Limit Hold'em with re-buys event finished up before moving to the final hot spot. When they did take their places, the crowd moved in like vultures for the carrion. Several times the announcer had to insist that the audience move back, that's how intense the heads-up play was.
The whole thing felt like a movie with a lot of heart. It was easy to imagine the screen adaptation of it: Meryl Streep stars in "All-In." The final table had it all. There was the drama of Shawnee Barton buckling under the pressure after a shared pot left her chip stack virtually bare. And there was the happy ending when it took Mary Jones Meyer a moment to realize she'd won before crying out in utter disbelief in the arms of her coach/husband. It truly was a cinematic moment. Too bad ESPN, you missed a great one. Let's hope the same mistake doesn't happen again next year.