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Time for WSOP Poker Players Championship to return to television

3 July 2013

LAS VEGAS -- Watching the $50,000 Players Championship at the World Series of Poker is very different from watching the Main Event. At the Main Event, only Texas Hold'em is played. At the Players Championship, a plaque on the table reminds the players -- and dealers -- which of eight games is being played.

At the Main Event, you need a program -- helpfully compiled for the media by the WSOP staff -- to identify most of the players in the field. At the Players Championship, you know virtually every player by sight.

At the Main Event, the final table will feature one or two players that casual poker fans are familiar with. At the Poker Players Championship, the final table will feature five or six players casual poker fans recognize. When Doyle Brunson, Barry Greenstein, Justin Bonomo and Bill Chen were eliminated today, it didn't matter. David Benyamine, John Hennigan, Jonathan Duhamel, Huck Seed and Erick Lindgren were still in contention.

At the Main Event, ESPN cameras are there to document the drama each step of the way. At the Players Championship, no cameras (except for some live streaming later in the tournament). And that's a travesty.

While the Main Event is the democratic spirit of poker at work, the Players Championship is the game's elite vying for the title of best poker player in the world. And poker fans are being denied a front row seat.

The players at the Players Championship are comfortable with each other at the table. The geniality at the table and the comfort level with each other make the tournament feel like a home game -- which is how and why many people fell in love with poker in the first place.

Go back and watch the older ESPN coverage of the WSOP Main Event. What made it fun, besides the inherent drama of poker, was the interaction between the players. We saw them having fun, and we enjoyed watching as a result. Watching the Players Championship is like watching the early days of televised poker. There's so much personality in the game, it's truly enjoyable.

Lindgren is all smiles at the table, declaring a switch to Razz as "Razz-a-licious." Brunson, prior to busting out, wandered around with the use of a crutch to talk to old friends. Greenstein shared quiet words with the players seated next to him. In Razz, players openly root for two face cards so they don't have to play the hand. And not a camera anywhere capturing the fun and banter.

ESPN doesn't broadcast non-Hold'em tournaments anymore, saying they don't draw ratings. If they committed to airing the Players Championship for the next three years, they might find they're wrong.

Daniel Negreanu and Matt Glantz, among others, complained last month that the WSOP had become too Hold'em-centric. They argued that a focus on Hold'em was bad for the future of the game, and a greater variety of tournaments needs to be offered to ensure the long-term health of the game.

They're right. Poker at the grassroots level is changing. Everyone has become a good Hold'em player, and as a result, even casual players are taking up Omaha. Yes, they're looking for an edge. But they're also looking for diversity. They know other games are out there, and they want to master them as well. Go to any poker room, either online or at a brick-and-mortar facility, and you'll see more Omaha interest lists and games than you ever did during the "poker boom." The same is true with other mixed games. At the Rio tonight, there were waiting lists for both Omaha 8 or better and mixed-games tables.

Televising the Players Championship can do for mixed games what televising the Main Event did for Hold'em. It can fuel a new boom in mixed games and solidify the long-term health of the game. The timing is right to begin televising the Players Championship again. Let's hope the WSOP and ESPN take up the mantle and return it to television.
Time for WSOP Poker Players Championship to return to television is republished from CasinoVendors.com.
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Best of Vin Narayanan
Vin Narayanan

Vin Narayanan is the managing editor at Casino City. When he's not writing or editing stories, he likes to play Chinese Poker, Badugi, Razz and any other "non-traditional" poker game. He also thinks blackjack is his best game and loves game theory.

Before joining Casino City, Vin covered (not all at the same time) sports, politics and elections, wars, technology, celebrities and the Census for USATODAY.com, USA WEEKEND and CNN.

A proud graduate of Michigan State University, Vin can be found on most nights and weekends trying to find a way to watch the Spartans play football or basketball.

Vin Narayanan
Vin Narayanan is the managing editor at Casino City. When he's not writing or editing stories, he likes to play Chinese Poker, Badugi, Razz and any other "non-traditional" poker game. He also thinks blackjack is his best game and loves game theory.

Before joining Casino City, Vin covered (not all at the same time) sports, politics and elections, wars, technology, celebrities and the Census for USATODAY.com, USA WEEKEND and CNN.

A proud graduate of Michigan State University, Vin can be found on most nights and weekends trying to find a way to watch the Spartans play football or basketball.