With the 2015 World Series of Poker Main Event final table on the horizon, Lee Davy wants to know if you would pay to watch it?
When it comes to football I’m what is known in the business as an armchair fan. Manchester United and England are my teams. The logistics of traveling to/from Old Trafford and Wembley rule out attendance at live games. I have to settle for good old fashioned television.
If only such a thing existed?
There is an addictive itch that starts to take shape when I know Man Utd or England are on the box, and I can’t watch it. I could murder an ant. The mighty reds were playing Wolfsburg the other night and because the game was on BT Sport they didn’t have a pay per view option. Had they, I could have easily parted with £10-15 to watch the game curled up on the couch with a cup of vegetable soup.
I am a lifelong football fan. It’s my religion. But there was a time for me when I stopped watching the games. I had found a new religion. It had found poker. I never thought I could love anything more than football. It would have been blasphemy to even suggest it, but poker touched all of the right buttons.
On November 8th the most eagerly anticipated event in poker’s calendar will take place at the Penn & Teller Theatre at the Rio in Las Vegas. I am, of course, talking about the World Series of Poker (WSOP) Main Event. I cannot get to Las Vegas to watch it live. My only option to watch the action unfold live is ESPN. I don’t have a contract, but I would pay to watch the event via pay per view.
But would I pay to watch it live?
The mere suggestion that a poker organisation would charge punters to watch a live tournament was out of the question until recently. Things changed when Mediarex Sports & Entertainment founder, Alex Dreyfus, outlined his plans to create the Global Poker League (GPL) and generate prize money through ticketing, sponsorships and the sale of branded merchandise.
The problem with live tournament poker is the tedious flow of the action. It can be like watching two tortoises having it off. Dreyfus knows this and that’s why he is going to change the way the game is played. He is going all Elon Musk on poker. He is going to make it a game that people are going to want to pay to watch, and I fully support him on it.
We already know that the atmosphere at a live poker final table can be electric. Anyone who witnessed the explosion of the Brits on the Barny Boatman WSOP final table rail in 2013, or the stand breaking samba dancing of Thiago Nishijima’s final table, last year, knows that poker has the ability to create pandemonium at a final table.
The idea of paying to watch a mind sport played out in the live setting is not a new one. Back in March, VUE Cinemas linked arms with Gfinity to turn the Vue Fulham Broadway into a eSports venue called the Gfinity Arena. The capacity is 600 people strong and you can expect to pay anywhere between £10-15 to watch the Gfinity Call of Duty European Pro League, or the Gfinity World Championships.
Bryan Paris is one of the very few players to have earned over $8m playing online tournaments. He is also starting to make some consistent noises in the live tournament scene. This is what he had to say when I asked if he would pay to watch the WSOP Main Event Final Table.
“Interesting idea, I think the initial reaction might be negative but in the long term it’s probably an important step towards “sportifying” poker if they can manage to get enough interest. I don’t know if I’d pay personally but I’d imagine some number of people would.”
During my weekly Premier League football review I argued that it was time to introduce TV replay technology into football matches. I think a time will come when poker will also have to drop some of its old traditions and move with the times.
If the GPL is a success, and we won’t know for a few years yet, then the other major poker tours may have to reevaluate their product. I don’t think it’s too far fetched to picture a future where the professionals and the amateurs are separated, and instead of playing with them, the amateurs will be playing to watch them.
In order for this to happen, the game needs to change. What does Hearthstone possess that poker doesn’t? What could we learn from our eSports brothers and sisters, that we can inject into our game?
Would I pay to watch the WSOP Main Event on TV?
Would I pay to watch the WSOP Main Event live?
Not until the game was made faster, and the whole production was redefined as a spectator sport.
Will it happen?
Over to you, Alex Dreyfus and the GPL.