It's a shame that in 2008 Hold'em dominates the Series as much as ever, because after all, everyone just wants to see the "coin flip" of ace-king against pocket queens. And I use the word "coin flip" lightly, because it's not even a coin flip; it's 57-43 in favor of the queens and closer to being a 3-2 than a true 50-50.
But I'm going off on a tangent here. The point is that this year, out of the 55 events being played, 34 of them will be forms of Hold'em.
If you want to split hairs and take out events that are necessities, and remove the Main Event, the ladies', the seniors' and the casino employees' (unfairly shoved to the back end of the Series as an afterthought), that's still 30 events out of 51 which are Hold'em variants - almost 60%.
Now, I'm not declaring that Hold'em isn't the most popular form of the game. It obviously is. I'm simply questioning why the Series still has to be based so strongly on one game.
The fact is that today, June 18, with us more than halfway through the Series, is the first day on which neither starting event has the word "Hold'em" in its title.
So what should take Hold'em's place? For a start (and I cannot deny my bias here), there should be more Omaha events, as at the moment there are only four. Two of those are w/rebuys and the third is the $10,000 event, meaning that for the average tourist or journeyperson player, there's effectively only one chance they'll be able to try this game at the Series.
At the moment, most PLO online is now played in the six-max format, and it's fair to say that Harrah's really missed out on this one. Omaha is already a gambler's game but in the six-max format, the risk increases tenfold. That alone means that more Omaha could bring many, many more punters into the hallways of the Rio.
At the same time, while there's only one PLO8 event at the moment, it's harder to argue the merits of increasing the number of these tournaments.
First, PLO8 really isn't a tournament game.
Second, Limit Omaha Eight is already much more popular at the moment, and an increase in tournaments of that type would be much more welcomed by the average player coming in, who's less likely to understand the rules of Pot-Limit.
Standalone Stud variants suffer even more than Omaha, being hidden in the mixed and H.O.R.S.E. events. For those who just want to play one of the Stud games, you're literally given five chances: two Stud Hi's, two Stud Eights and just a single solitary tournament of Razz.
Again, it would be nice to see an increase in this genre of event, just to give people a chance to try out something new. If it doesn't work (like the tent, or this year's final-table delay), then it can always be changed back.
The crux of my argument is this: Harrah's is advocating the final-table delay as a way of trying to stir up interest in the Series among people who don't watch poker.
But maybe the reason people are losing interest in watching poker on TV is that they've been bombarded for the last few years with exactly the same situation time and again - "This guy has a pair, and [insert pro's name here] has two overcards. Who'll win this race?"
And poker hasn't exactly burst into the true mainstream because of blanket HE coverage, has it?
I can't deny that there are many other things that also need to be sorted out if poker is to break out of its semi-niche area. But presenting other events as being equally as interesting as the all-powerful Hold'em (and in some cases arguably more) will allow people to at least familiarize themselves with the other games and possibly discover one that's more to their liking.
The WSOP and Harrah's don't even have to make serious cutbacks in Hold'em events. Simply removing five HE events and adding a couple of PLO and Stud games would balance out the variants on offer significantly.
It would also make the "World Series of Poker" brand a more representative one, because Hold'em would no longer dominate the schedule; instead, other variants would get exposure as well.
By giving most other events equal billing with the $10,000 Championship events, Harrah's is taking a step in the right direction, bestowing more importance on events that were previously left to rot. A further balancing of the tournament variants would simply be the next step on this road.
Even if that were to happen, though, getting non-HE Championship events filmed may prove more difficult.
Of the events that have played out so far, practically all the "feature" table events shown have been the Hold'em ones, with other events being more or less snubbed. Neither the $10,000 Mixed Event nor the $10,000 Stud were shown on the feature table despite their fantastic lineups, and I suspect many of the other lesser-known events will not make into that little arena in the corner of the Amazon Room.
Can Harrah's and ESPN find their altruistic side for the welfare of poker itself? One hopes so.