The WSOP’s November Nine: Seduced, Abandoned, and Forgotten

by Lou on November 6, 2008

The conclusion of the 2008 WSOP is nearly here, following a more than three-month planned delay to allow ESPN to broadcast the event “almost live.”
Head honchos at the WSOP promised to build publicity around the final table during the hiatus, increase rooting interest among poker fans and casual viewers alike, while boosting ESPN’s ratings in the process. We were told that the November Nine would be made celebrities—complete with fan clubs, endorsement deals, and notoriety—in the period between summer and the actual culmination of next week’s “almost live” event.
It never happened. Instead, the Novembrists were seduced, abandoned, and left without water to wander the desert on their own. While one of these wanderers will win the WSOP and become a celeb with endorsement deals as a result of his skill and good fortune, the other eight figure to wind up as anonymous as main event runners-up have been most other years—at best a trivia question; at worst, completely forgotten.

I haven’t seen anything in the way of publicity aimed at building mainstream support for the event and final-table players among casual poker fans. No one’s made the talk show circuit. I expected to see them on Letterman, on Conan, playing a hand of poker with Ellen, maybe even on the morning news shows. I thought the November Nine would be as visible as actors out on the talk show circuit pitching a new movie. That’s the kind of build up poker needs. Instead, all I found was a great silence.
Now, in the wake of a monumental presidential election and the economic news that’s dominated the airways for the past month, the WSOP seems to be lost in an informational overload shuffle, hoping for attention but doing precious little to make its voice heard over the roar of recent news events.
Even the poker media—and as editor of Poker Player Newspaper, that includes me—hasn’t gotten much publicity material about the Novembrists. All I receive is a weekly email from a PR firm containing about two to three paragraphs about another one of the nine finalists, and that’s not nearly enough to tell compelling stories about these players. It’s certainly insufficient to build the kind of rooting interest needed to grab curious, casual poker fans and viewers by the throat and make sure they’re in front of their TV sets and not moving during the “almost live” telecast. And it won’t provide the kind of publicity needed to generate endorsement deals.
So enjoy the World Series of Poker’s final table. I know I will. But I won’t be looking for the winner’s picture on a box of Wheaties anytime soon.

{ 3 comments }

Anonymous November 6, 2008 at 10:38 pm

Lou:

Thank you for the candid recap.
Clearly, this waiting until November will go down in history next to the “New Coke” soft drink disaster of the 1980’s.

The wait has probably cost Harrah’s a lot of money. There will be no rating’s bonanza in my view.

Cardplayer, Harrah’s WPT…They are all in the tank together. There’s no real poker journalism out there to explain all this. Thanks for setting the record straight.

signed

Chief Disciple of Poker

Short-Stacked Shamus November 6, 2008 at 11:00 pm

Yes, the last four months have certainly been underwhelming in the publicity/hype dept. I’m anxious to see how the FT plays out (and how ESPN shows it), but I’m not seeing much evidence that the WSOP has gained any more attention this year among mainstream culture than it has in the past.

(Also now bummed ‘cos I was there all summer, but am not able to be there for the end!)

Joe Batterz November 9, 2008 at 2:16 am

Spot on with your comments about the lack of mainstream attention to the November 9.

I thought I read that ESPN is setting record ratings for their WSOP shows. If so, they might try this again next year.

If they do, you have several great suggestions that they should look into.

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