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Monday, June 26, 2006
WSOP Begins Today

The World Series of Poker begins today. Most ESPN watchers have seen only the “Main Event”, which does not begin until July 28. Someone in Bristol must read the Sports Law Blog, because three weeks after I complained about the delay between the event and its appearance on ESPN, the network announced that it would offer the August 10 final table of the main event live on pay-per-view. This is an interesting development, since the pay-per-view broadcast will be unedited. Some observers have expressed concern that a live unedited broadcast – particularly if players’ “hole cards” are shown on TV – might allow players to obtain information about the recent moves made by their opponents (by having a friend at home call in that information).

The success of broadcast poker – on ESPN and numerous other channels – has inspired the network to consider other “pseudo” sports. Darts, billiards, and even spelling bees, have appeared or will appear on the network, although such events likely don’t and won’t attract much of a following or generate as much buzz as poker.

ESPN is not the only “sports” medium in which non-athletic events have gained traction. A few years ago, supporters and fans of another high-strategy card game, Bridge, began to seek recognition of that game as an Olympic Sport. The supporters believed they’d have better luck getting the card game recognized as a Winter event, given the already-crowded summer schedule. In 1998, the Bridge-as-Olympic-Mind-Sport movement gained an influential supporter, the President of the International Olympic Commission, as the New York Times reported here. However, efforts to get Bridge at the Turin Olympics stalled after several players failed drug tests.

During the Athens Olympics, a tongue-in-cheek web site surfaced, arguing that poker should qualify as an Olympic event. It turned out that the site was part of a cleverly disguised ad campaign for Full Tilt Poker, designed to evade restrictions on broadcast advertisements for gambling sites.

But would a more serious poker-in-the-Olympics movement succeed? Ignore for the moment the question of whether poker is a “sport.” The Olympics aren’t just about “sports,” in the classic ball-on-grass sense. Competitions with greater mental than physical components are now recognized as legitimate Olympic events (one web site explains, “Some examples of mental sports include: archery, canoe/kayak, equestrian, fencing, sailing, shooting, and table tennis”). If Bridge has a case for inclusion, why not poker? Of course, Poker is perhaps a game with less of an international following than bridge (or at least, the Texas Hold ‘Em form dominant in this country in the post-Moneymaker era).

For regular (spoiler warning) coverage of the WSOP tourney, I’d suggest the Poker Prof’s Blog.


I believe that the Paper, Rock, Scissors Championship was on ESPN, as well as the Scrabble Championship. Maybe these should be Olympic sports too! I put poker on the same level as chess, I would be OK with both of them in the Olympics

Anonymous Jeff -- 6/26/2006 10:53 AM  

Of course, Poker is perhaps a game with less of an international following than bridge

Poker might be even more popular in Europe than it is here. Last year's WSOP main event winner was from Australia, and the hallways of the Rio will be crawling with foreigners during this year's two-month run. I'll be there from July 26th to August 3rd doing interviews with pros and bloggers, like I did last year. It's a crazy, surreal scene.

Anonymous tim in tampa -- 6/26/2006 1:44 PM  

You may be right about Europe, although I've heard that Omaha is more popular there. But if we start talking about Latin America, Asia, Eastern Europe, the Middle East, etc.m then I think Bridge is far more widely played.

Blogger Geoffrey Rapp -- 6/26/2006 3:34 PM  

This really should be on television from the start somewhere on satellite. Maybe a directv poker package.

The entire tournament should be shown. Other sports don't get to hide their moves/strategy from the competition.

Poker fanatics would watch every second, just as basketball fans watch the whole NCAA Tournament from the morning to night.

Anonymous Ron Jumper -- 6/26/2006 8:47 PM  

ESPN decided to air the WSOP live soon after last year's main event. Curious to see how many people will pay money to see it live.

I'd pay $$ to not hear Lon Mclearan sp? and Norman Chad rehearse their lines...........

Anonymous Anonymous -- 7/12/2006 10:33 PM  

I've always wanted to be a part of the WSOP. Guess I should schedule my next gambling trip to Vegas before the event.

Blogger MrCy -- 1/09/2008 7:40 PM  

I realy feel for the gamblers in the US. I cant beleive your Congress banned all banks and credit card companies from accepting transactions from online gambling sites which makes you unable to play online poker. What a bunch of hypocrites your state government are. They have the largest gambling operations with lotto, keno, etc. If they truly believed their rhetoric about internet gambling they would cut out the state operations also. And now they are bringing in a law to legalise slot machines. Personally I would have a big grudge against any party that stopped me from playing on a online poker site. I think there must be some way for you guys to get around this problem. Must make you wonder if you are living in the land of the free when it seems the government has full control on what it will and wont let you do.

Anonymous poker paul -- 1/23/2008 6:05 AM  

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