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Gary Trask

Gary  Trask
Gary serves as Casino City's Editor in Chief and has worked as a writer and editor more than 25 years. The Boston native was a member of the Poker Hall of Fame's inaugural Media Committee.

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Top-10 WSOP events we'd like to see on ESPN

4 May 2009

By Gary Trask

True poker fans received a bit of a jolt last week when ESPN announced its broadcast schedule for the 2009 World Series of Poker. The network will air 15 weeks of WSOP coverage beginning July 28, but just two bracelet events will be shown and the only game that will be seen will be No Limit Texas Hold'em.

It's understandable what Harrah's, the WSOP and ESPN are trying to do here. While the Main Event is and will always be the anchor of its WSOP coverage, they want recognizable "stars" to have more of a presence during their coverage. And they'll get just that by covering tournaments like the Ante Up For Africa charity event and the newly conceived $40,000 Hold'em Championship and WSOP Champions Invitational events.

The powers at be realize that the die-hard poker fans will be watching no matter what. But by covering events with celebrities from inside and outside the poker world they will be able to draw the "casual fans" and by airing just Hold'em tournaments they won't put off this group of viewers with games they may not recognize.

"What we've learned from the past is that games other than No Limit Hold'em do not draw as big of an audience for TV," Pollack explained last week.

So we can appreciate the reasons behind the change in format. And we're honestly looking forward to seeing these new events on TV. But the bottom line is that ESPN's coverage isn't as diverse as it could be, at least from a true poker fan's perspective.

Here's a look at 10 additional events we'd like to see on the tube this summer when we settle in each Tuesday night for our weekly fix of WSOP coverage:


Seeing players like Evelyn Ng on ESPN this summer would make for good TV. (photo by Vin Narayanan/Casino City)

10. Ladies $1,000 No-Limit Hold'em World Championship
Some of the most recognizable stars in the poker world are females and the reason isn't just because there are slew of women poker players who are easy on the eyes. These girls can play the game. Put it all together and this is a natural for TV.

9. $5,000 No-Limit Hold'em Shootout
There are three "shootout" events this year and this is the one with the highest buy-in, which, in turn, means it will draw the best field. This three-round event is a perfect for TV because everyone starts with the same amount of chips at the start of every round, meaning there will be no short stack when the final table begins.

8. $10,000 World Championship Omaha Hi-Low
Omaha is the game where players get four hole cards and five community cards. Players have to combine two of their hole cards with three of the community cards to make the best and worst five-card hand. For someone who doesn't know the game it may be confusing at first, but once you get the hang of following the action this is actually a great game to watch because of the number of hands that players are angling for and the increased action.

7. $10,000 World Championship Mixed Event
This is basically a H.O.R.S.E. tournament on steroids as every eight hands the game changes between Triple Draw 2-7, Limit Hold'em, Omaha 8, Razz, Stud, Stud 8, No-Limit Hold'em and Pot-Limit Omaha. Simply put, this is a hard-core poker fan's delight.

6. $10,000 World Championship Deuce to Seven Draw Lowball
Call us twisted, but there's just something very intriguing about games where the worst hand wins. Toss in the fact that the players draw three times here and you can see why we have included it on our list. This is the first time there's been a $10,000 buy-in for this type of event.

5. $2,500 Seven Card Razz
This is the only Razz event on the card and WSOP Tournament Director Jack Effel told us that the reason for the increased buy-in from $1,500 to $2,500 is to draw "a more attractive field." If that's the case, we want the chance to see it.

4. $1,000 No-Limit Hold'em
This is the "stimulus special" tournament that will be held on the opening weekend, May 30-31. Because of the low buy-in the WSOP says it is anticipating the largest live tournament field outside the Main Event and a prize pool of as much as $5 million. This will be a fun event since it gives a chance to the "every man" to win a coveted WSOP bracelet.

3. $10,000 World Championship Seven Card Stud
If you're under the age of 30, you probably don't remember the days when Seven Card Stud was the most popular home game variant of poker. For nostalgia sake, this should be a TV event.


When a foul-mouthed Scotty Nguyen won last year's $50,000 H.O.R.S.E. Championship, the ESPN cameras were there to capture it. (photo by IMPDI for the 2008 WSOP)

2. $10,000 World Championship Heads Up No-Limit
Look no further than the popular NBC Heads Up Poker Challenge for reasons why this should be on the broadcast list. It's entertaining to see one-on-one battles between the different personalities of the game because it provides for great banter and drama. Kenny Tran won this event last year, the first time it had a $10,000 buy-in.

1. $50,000 World Championship H.O.R.S.E.
As mentioned at the top of this article, we understand the reasoning behind the changes to this year's broadcast schedule, but this is an event that should have survived the cut.

First of all, seeing the game change so much within the same tournament adds to the theater since you get to see the players change their strategies and styles on the fly. In addition, many players would probably tell you that they would rather win this tournament than the Main Event. The players feel that this is the truest test of poker and the huge buy-in results in only top-notch players being involved in the chase.

The inaugural H.O.R.S.E. event was captured by Chip Reese, who passed away later that year and now the trophy given to the winner of the tournament is dedicated to the well-liked and respected Reese. That makes the tournament that much more meaningful. And who can forget Scotty Nguyen's drunken run to the title last year? If that's not must-see-TV, we don't know what is.

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