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Nov 24, 2015

5 Ways to improve WSOP Main Event Final Table

By RTR Dennis

The WSOP Main Event final table is supposed to be the highlight of the year for poker fans. After all, this marks the conclusion of the world's richest poker tournament, where nine lucky players battle for multi-million dollar prizes. But the 2015 WSOP November Nine lacked all the drama and excitement that we've seen in past years. Sure, a large part of this was due to the fact that Joe McKeehen dominated the final table en route to winning $7.68 million. However, it seems that there's still plenty of room to improve for the Main Event final table, including the following five ideas.

1. Add a Shot Clock

Based on all the complaints about tanking from Ofer Zvi Stern and a couple other players, this one is pretty obvious. Nevertheless, Main Event viewers shouldn't be subjected to 10-minute hands that don't even reach the flop. This isn't the first time that players have called for a shot clock to speed up play, as the issue was brought up in the WPT a few years ago. But it seems that if the WSOP is going to be broadcasted in its entirety (on 30-minute delay), then there needs to be some sort of safeguard in place to prevent excessive tanking.

2. Create a Flatter Pay Structure at the Top

This already began happening in the 2015 Main Event, where 1,000 players were guaranteed a payout and the entire November Nine was guaranteed at least $1 million. But as long as there are significant jumps in pay — like $1,426,283 for sixth place versus $4,470,896 for second place — there will be players simply trying to ladder up to higher payouts, rather than playing to win. So while the top payouts offered this year were closer together than in previous years, the structure could be made even flatter to encourage exciting play and risk taking.

3. Shorten the Delay before the Final Table is played

Another problem with the style of play offered in the November Nine is that these players are coached to death leading up to the final table. You certainly can't blame the players for getting as much as they can in the nearly 4-month delay before the final table happens. But it leads to a situation where the participants are just doing whatever their coaches preach in a robotic manner. By shortening the final-table delay (i.e. 1-2 months), there's less room for extensive coaching, and maybe some of these players will open up and make their own reads. Furthermore, there are really only so many headlines/stories that can be offered on each player before the final table begins.

4. Don't extend the Main Event to 3 Days Again

This was the first time that ESPN broadcasted the November Nine over three days instead of two. In theory, this seemed like a cool idea because it would provide an extra night of Main Event coverage. In reality, this only stretched out the final table and made eliminations seem like they came too slowly. One has to wonder if it will eventually drag out to 1-2 eliminations per night, rather than the previous 6 eliminations on Day 1.

5. Get rid of Live Main Event Coverage

Much of what we've discussed so far could be changed simply by eliminating the near-live coverage. Yes, this is the Main Event final table and it's supposed to be special. But whenever the edited version of the final table comes out after the event is over, it's so much more entertaining to watch. All the excessive tanking is removed while the most action-packed hands are shown. It's a far stretch to think that the WSOP/ESPN will do away with live coverage, but it would certainly help make the final table more watchable.