On Sunday (ESPN, 8:30 p.m. ET), the nine remaining World Series of Poker Main Event players will return to Las Vegas to vie for poker’s ultimate trophy in front of ESPN’s live television cameras, as the three-day final table begins.
Front Row caught up with WSOP producer Dan Gati of Poker Productions, who has been producing WSOP on ESPN since 2011, to find out what will make this year’s Main Event the best yet.
This year, ESPN is presenting a new three-day final table. What was the decision behind changing that from a two-day final table?
One of the reasons we changed the duration was to make the viewer experience better. Often times, 9-handed down to 3-handed ran well past 2 a.m. It was too much to ask people to stay up all night. With three nights of coverage, we hope each night breaks into more manageable windows, and that there is more buzz as the days progress.
Will there be any new production elements used?
This year, along with our regular complement of cameras, we’re using a super-slo-mo camera as well as a techno jib—a camera with a 30-foot arm that also extends. Neither has been used on our final table coverage before and we think the shots we’ll get will be unique. Additional cameras and camera angles will hopefully bring the audience closer to the action and see poker in a way perhaps not seen before.
What is the hardest part about producing a live (with 30-minute delay) poker game?
Technically, it’s complicated to create the 30-minute delay and do it with high production value. We don’t always succeed, but we like to think we do a good job. The more moving parts, the more risk of a technical (television) issue, but giving viewers “cards up” is worth it.
Is there anything else you’re excited for with this year’s broadcast?
We have [professional poker players] Daniel Negreanu and Phil Hellmuth back at the “break desk” along with Kara Scott. Daniel and Phil always have expert insight, but this year, it’s enhanced because they both made deep runs at the Main Event. They played with many members of the final table and will have more detailed analysis on how the final nine play and what to expect.
|WSOP Finalists: November Nine|
|Finalist||Hometown||Respective seat assignment|
|Joshua Beckley||Marton, Pa.||Seat 3|
|Neil Blumenfield||San Francisco, Calif.||Seat 9|
|Federico Butteroni||Rome, Italy||Seat 8|
|Tom Cannuli||Cape May, N.J.||Seat 5|
|Patrick Chan||Brooklyn, N.Y.||Seat 7|
|Joe McKeehen||North Wales, Pa.||Seat 6|
|Pierre Neuville||Knokke-Heist, Belguim||Seat 2|
|Max Steinberg||Oakland, Calif.||Seat 4|
|Zvi Stern||Herzilya, Israel||Seat 1|