ESPN will present the 2012 World Series of Poker: The Big One for One Drop on a 15-minute delay today at 4 p.m. on ESPN2 and ESPN3, and continuing on ESPN and ESPN3 at 8 p.m. with Lon McEachern, Norman Chad, Antonio Esfandiari and Kara Scott calling the action. This No-Limit Texas Hold ‘em event requires a $1 million buy-in per player. Phil Ivey and Daniel Negreanu are among the competitors at the Rio Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Nev.
With ESPN’s 2012 WSOP poker coverage kicking off this week — and continuing in August with weekly Tuesday prime-time shows highlighting the main event — Front Row asked ESPN.com poker editor and blogger Andrew Feldman for some insight into this event and his unique job.
You’ve been involved with ESPN’s poker coverage since 2004. How did this opportunity come about?
When I was an intern for ESPN.com in 2003, the program encouraged interns to meet with different managers in a variety of departments so that you’d get a feel for what the company had to offer. At one of those meetings, I brought up the idea of an ESPN poker site. After graduating from the University of Michigan the following spring, I returned and was given an opportunity to build the experience. Poker had always been a hobby of mine and from that moment on, it became much more than that.
What is it like to cover the WSOP main event?
Covering the WSOP Main Event is an incredible challenge. With thousands of players in action at any given moment, it’s nearly impossible to keep track of everyone and that’s why my goal is to try and find the right storylines that will appeal to readers and listeners. On a typical day, I’m writing numerous blogs for ESPN.com, tweeting incessantly (@AFeldmanESPN) about what I’m hearing and seeing around the tournament area, recording daily Poker Edge podcasts (available on iTunes) and taping the occasional video hit. The days are incredibly long during the main event (9 a.m. to 2 a.m.), but there really is nothing more exciting than being around the Rio as these players, who basically likened their main event entry to a lottery ticket, are making their way towards history. You’re joining all these players, friends and families on the ride of a lifetime, and part of the thrill of tournament poker is watching someone emerge from this journey as the newest world champion.
What is new or different about the WSOP main event in 2012?
The main event will still be one of the largest tournaments in all of poker history. Coming off the heels of the $1 million buy-in Big One For One Drop, there is a buzz among the industry. Players have been on the WSOP felt for six weeks and finally, it’s time for them to start their main event journey. Perhaps the newest changes to the main event this year revolves around talking at the table and for televised poker fans, that means more of the table talk that really makes the atmosphere. Also, the “Hevad Khan” rule, the rule that limited celebrations in the past, has been removed so that players can be excited after they win a big pot. They can cheer, clap hands, high five and just enjoy the moment. The WSOP main event is the greatest tournament in the world because it brings out all types of players. The pro may not celebrate extensively, but an amateur running deep should be able to share his excitement with the world. As I often say on Twitter, these rule changes are indeed #goodforthegame.
How would you describe the average poker player, and how do they hone their skills for the WSOP?
The average poker player is someone who enjoys the game on the casual level. They play in a home game with friends while watching TV, enjoying a couple beverages, some good food and discussion. Poker is a social game and the average poker player enjoys the challenge, but doesn’t take things too seriously. To hone his or her skills for the WSOP, the best thing that any player could do is practice. Gaining experience at the felt is just as important as reading a poker book and the more experienced players will be calm and collected when their big moment to play in the WSOP main event arrives and Phil Ivey is seated on their left.
How much do you interact with fans on Twitter and what kind of questions do you get?
I interact with fans on Twitter every day. I’m often discussing news and results, but to engage my followers I like to ask hypothetical questions like who they think will win a certain event, what players are the best in the world or something like what they’d do if they became the WSOP main event champion. Over the weekend, I received some great responses from fans after I asked what they would do with the $18.3 million the winner of the Big One For One Drop will take home. My favorite answer was from @FSUkingpin who said “@AFeldmanESPN I’d hire Morgan freeman to narrate my day.” Personally, I’d go with Jack Bauer (actor Kiefer Sutherland), but just the idea of it is pretty funny. The other great part of my Twitter experience is interacting with the players, and most of the people I follow are poker players who have a lot more to share than just their chip counts.
What can your Twitter followers expect from you during the WSOP main event?
From July 7-16, for nearly 18 hours a day, my goal is to provide fans with enough color that it makes them feel like they’re walking the WSOP floor with me. Twitter followers could be in the UK, Florida or Brazil checking out my feed and hopefully, they’ll feel like your hanging out with me in Vegas as the biggest tournament in the world plays down to a champion.