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PokerNews Debate: Should the WSOP Continue the November Nine Concept?

2011 November Nine

Prior to revealing the schedule for 2012, the World Series of Poker teased the poker world with various tweets. On Tuesday, the WSOP revealed it would be using 470 tables this summer, nearly 100 more than the year before; that the 2012 WSOP would take place from May 27 to July 16; the off day during the Main Event would be gone; and perhaps the biggest announcement of all:

When the WSOP finally released the schedule for 2012, it turned out that the November Nine concept was still there, just not in November. The final table was moved up a week, putting it in October, to accommodate the presidential election. Nonetheless, it got us thinking, should the WSOP keep the November Nine concept?

The concept was introduced in 2008 and developed to help build anticipation and excitement during four months between the determination of the final table and its completion. During that time, the public gets to know the players, who are in turn allowed to seek sponsorship opportunities and promote themselves at tournaments around the world. It also gave viewers a chance to catch up on the action on ESPN, because the episodes ran all the way up to the final table commencement in November. So, after four years, and last year's near-live stream of the Main Event, does the November Nine concept work? It's an interesting question, and we thought it’d make the perfect topic for our latest PokerNews Debate piece.

Chad Holloway Believes the November Nine Concept Should be Abandoned

In 2008, the World Series of Poker introduced an innovative concept called the November Nine, and I must admit that I was excited. I still remember some of the players from that inaugural class of November Niners including Chino Rheem, Scott Montgomery, Ivan Demidov, Dennis Phillips, and Peter Eastgate. All of these players are fixtures on the poker circuit and benefited greatly from the November Nine concept. Unfortunately, that first year seems to be the pinnacle of the November Nine's success and things only seemed to go down from there.

First, the numbers, as far as TV ratings, have never been as good as they were in 2008 when there was a 50 percent increase over the year before. You can’t help but wonder why the 2008 final table, which was comprised mostly of unknowns, at least at the time, drew more viewers than in 2009 and 2010 when two poker superstars made the final table in Phil Ivey and Michael “The Grinder” Mizrachi respectively. The November Nine concept is a noble novelty with good intentions, but the excitement it generates never amounts to much, at least not in the television realm.

Speaking of television, the way poker is broadcast has changed drastically since 2008. In general, people want their news and entertainment instantaneously. News is now delivered in seconds via the Internet and social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter, and the entertainment is distributed through instant streaming and On Demand.

This phenomenon has made its way into the poker world through the innovation of live streaming feature and final tables. Last year, the WSOP broadcast the Main Event feature table on a short delay, and the response was positive, leading me to believe they could focus their attention on live streaming, and building excitement through that outlet, rather than trying to make the November Nine work.

Let's face it, poker fans love watching the action as it happens. It gives them a sense of being there in real time, much like an NFL football game does. That’s why we’ve seen the shift from edited poker programs to those that are either live streaming or show every hand. While the November Nine can use live streaming, like it did last year, the four-month hiatus is an awfully long time to wait for the event’s finale. In this day and age, it’s hard to expect players to invest their time, energy, and emotion into something knowing they’ll have to wait for four months before being satisfied.

The ability to play straight through has been advocated by many players during the past four years. They argued that halting at the final table hampers any momentum players may have built up over the days. While it seems like a silly concept, any poker player can tell you that when you’re running hot, you want to ride that rush. With the November Nine out the way, players may be able to do just that.

As Ylon Schwartz said when the November Nine concept was originally introduced: "It ruins the integrity of the tournament. The purity of old-time Las Vegas is gone. The antiquity and purity of the tournament have been liquidated into pure greed and capitalism."

Along those lines, I believe the getting rid of the November Nine would bring the Main Event back to a purer form of poker. Now, players have four months to improve their game, study their opponents, and do whatever else they can think of to improve their chances at the world title. If the November Nine was gone, players would have to learn and adapt by the seat of their pants, the way poker has been played for decades. To me, the player who is best able to exhibit stamina, adaptability, perseverance, and skill deserves to win.

Donnie Peters Believes the November Nine Concept Works and Should Stick Around

When the World Series of Poker tweeted that there would be no November Nine on the 2012 schedule, I was a bit shocked, mainly because the change was coming so soon after moving to the new format.

The WSOP has always stood alone and differentiated itself from online poker, never feeling threatened, but immediately I thought it was a lingering effect of Black Friday. Even despite the effects Black Friday had on the industry as a whole, the WSOP stood strong and boasted amazing numbers across all tournament fields in 2011. Also, the November Nine seemed to be a very big success in its own right. I was there and it was, once again, an awesome experience.

Everyone had their doubts coming into the first November Nine, but after it happened, everyone seemed to come around and enjoy it. Sure, if you're Phil Ivey you have have wanted to go straight into the final table when you had all the momentum, but some things are simply better for the game, the players and the industry.

They say poker is a game for the long haul. I believe the November Nine was good for the WSOP, for the Niners and for poker in the long haul. Why? Well, there are a couple of reasons.

First, the WSOP had a good amount of time to hype up the event, much like when sporting events have an extended break before the final series of game. The WSOP is able to promote the November Nine throughout the downtime before the Final Table takes place and the Niners can travel the tournament circuit trying to further make a name for themselves, all while the WSOP plasters their names and faces all over the poker world for nearly four months.

A second reason why the November Nine is a good thing is that the players are able to promote themselves during the months off from the event and seek out possible sponsorship deals. With the added time off and the build up to the major final table, promoting oneself as a possible sponsor candidate becomes much more viable.

Originally, one of the reasons I was against the November Nine was that the time off gave players – mainly the less-skilled ones – a bit more time to practice and prepare for the competition against their opponents. Now that I've seen a few November Nines happen, I think this is actually a good thing for the game and helps to make for a better show. Besides working on their poker games, players are also able to practice how they will act and perform under the bright lights on the big stage and also will better be prepared for the barrage of media coverage they will be getting. All together, having the players better prepared is a good thing.

When it was originally thought that there would be no November Nine this year, the first thing I thought about was how much the atmosphere at the final table would be severely lacking. With the final table being held in the Penn & Teller Theatre, and with months of down time before it takes place, the family and friends of the nine competitors are able to make their various travel arrangements in order to get to the live final table. I've been at the November Nine since its inception and the atmosphere is absolutely buzzing out of control. I fear that without the gap to allow for the correct planning from family and friends, the buzz just won't be there anymore and the entire spectacle as a whole will be a lot more stale.

Finally, the effects of Black Friday seem to be slowing turning around for the good in America, especially in the state of Nevada. With that, it seems the WSOP should maybe just ride things out for another year or two and see what happens in regards to online poker before they decide to completely axe the November Nine. If online poker does come back – and if it does, it looks as though Nevada may be the first – then sponsors may be knocking on the door trying to dump lots of money into the final table production and its players once again.

What are your thoughts on the November Nine? Use the comments section below to let us know your opinion.

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