WSOP Rant: Let's Make a Magical Experience Even More Magical

2013 WSOP Main Event Heads Up 6
Not pictured: Pillars

When your friend has reached the final table of a WSOP event, do you want to see what’s going on from the rail?

I know that I would.

I have. And do you know what? I can never see shit.

The Poker Gods Were Smiling

In 1999, a group of very smart people from Cardiff, Wales, approached Channel 4 with an idea to air a poker tournament on television.

They were called Presentable and their idea was accepted. It was the first time poker had been shown on British television and Late Night Poker was born.

Presentable had their shit together well before they walked into Channel 4 offices with their pitch. They knew that the show needed two vital ingredients: interesting and sticky characters, and the ability for the viewer to see what was going on.

The hole-camera idea was born. Viewers could now see the action, they had characters that were absorbing, and a match was made in poker heaven.

The Poker Gods were smiling.

It’s Called Thunderdome, and It’s Impressive

2013 WSOP Main Event Heads Up 2
It's called Thunderdome, and it's impressive.

If you are ever fortunate enough to step into the Amazon Room in the Rio All Suite Hotel & Casino during the World Series of Poker (WSOP), you can’t help but be impressed by the stadia surrounding the final table of final tables. 

It’s called The Thunderdome and I have never seen anything quite as impressive throughout my years following the poker circuit. 

The name represents a gladiatorial arena where players duel it out to the death.

“Two men enter, one man leaves,” as the Mad Max quote goes.

Whilst I believe the set up has been designed to improve the visual experience for the television audience, I think they have some very glaring design issues when it comes to satisfying the live audience.

Like Watching Sports from Behind a Pillar

Presentable had the right idea.

Sleepy railbird
Let's get some giant TVs up in here, yeah?

They knew how critical it was for the viewer to get into the meat and two veg of the poker.

If you can’t see the hole cards then it’s like watching a live sporting event from behind a pillar. Or having seats to watch a gig positioned in the rafters without any giant video screens.

It’s impossible for you to see the hole cards in a live event - I get that - but it is important to see the players chip stacks, who has the button, how much the players are betting, what their up cards are, and what the community cards are.

If you don’t have this information, it’s akin to watching a pop concert with fingers jammed into your ears.

I have read enough articles in the past week to understand that Ted Forrest’s victory over Phil Hellmuth was one of the greatest Razz final tables of all time.

I can tell you with some assurance that was not the case from the rail.

End Product = A Very Frustrated Rail

I watched several hours of the three-handed action and all I heard were complaints from the rail because nobody could see any of the action.

When you can’t see the action, you need to hear the action and unfortunately the MC was not on point. Either the microphone was too quiet, he was too quiet or a combination of the two.

End product = a very frustrated rail.

What’s frustrating about this lack of visual acuity is the answer seems to be so simple. Replace the tiny flat screen televisions with screens that can be seen from the moon.

It’s not as if they are going to get in the players' way. And they don’t even cost that much money, particularly in the grand scheme of things.

A better system for real-time chip counts would also help. This is how we keep score. It’s how we evaluate who is winning and who is losing.

ESPN Stage Under Construction
A little bit here, a little bit there would make all the difference.

It’s akin to watching a football game that doesn’t have a scoreboard.

Let’s Make a Magical Experience Even More Magical

I know it’s a little thing. I know that it’s not the WSOP’s prime concern.

Entertaining the viewers at home is. But let’s make what is already a magical experience even more magical.

You don’t need to spend much money and the cosmetic surgery involved would be minimal.

If not, we could end up with a scenario where the motto: “Two men enter, one man leaves,” soon becomes “100 fans enter, 100 fans leave.”

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