Sunday, November 6,2011 : WORLD SERIES OF POKER FINAL TABLE STARTS TODAY (Update)
 
Television coverage on 15 minute delay should deliver a massive audience
 
Nine poker players who are already assured of pay outs of at least a million dollars apiece  gather at the Rio in Las Vegas Sunday for the final table action that will decide the winner of this year's World Series of Poker main event, an epic poker competition that attracted an initial field of 6,865 players who put up $10,000 each to create a $64,531,000 prize pool.
 
This year's winner will take home $8,711,956, ensuring a hard-fought contest and some thrilling poker action.
 
That action will be captured on television, and this year ESPN is likely to attract a bigger audience by screening the event in real time with a 15 minute delay.
 
"It's a different game," said WSOP Player of the Year Ben Lamb, who will enter final table play in fifth place. "The three-betting that would go on … if you see a guy doing that a lot, you'll know what they're doing it with. It's a very different dynamic. It's going to change things. I think everyone will have people working for them. I have some really talented players who'll be conveying information to me. Some will be close to the table, some will be at home."
 
The big show, which will go on for 18 hours if required, starts at 3.30pm Eastern Time on Sunday and will be screened on ESPN 2.
 
"This is really a true test of how far poker has come," WSOP executive director Ty Stewart said this week. "We will see if the audience has matured enough to consume this much poker in the live style.
 
“The way we've presented the product in the past, you don't have to know much about the game. This will be a different experience. The guessing game and the analysis happening after the hands, versus talking you through the situations as you're watching them. Are people going to love this or hate this? I'm prepared for some of both."
 
Doug White, ESPN's senior director of programming and acquisitions, said: "Every sport needs to evolve. Every league has to think about rules and game changes. We viewed poker in that same light. We did not want to get caught being flat-footed. This was a chance, with a good idea, to move forward. I'm happy Caesars and the rest of the community agreed with that sentiment."
 
The partners experimented 30-minute delay poker broadcasts during the summer and were influenced by the good ratings this achieved, leading to the slightly delayed real-time broadcasting that will showcase the WSOP main event today.
 
The explosion of live reportage via social media such as Twitter has also had an impact.
 
"I think that many of our most hard-core fans have been exiting the broadcast to go to other platforms," opined this week. Stewart.  "Twitter, live updates and the like. There wasn't a compelling reason to consume the flagship broadcast. We wanted to re-engage the core. This was an opportunity to really reinvent what poker could be — live sport.”
 
Here’s the final table line up with chip counts at the start of play:
 
Seat 1:  Matt Giannetti (Las Vegas, NV) – 24,750,000 in chips    
 
Seat 2:  Badih Bou-Nahra (Belize City, Belize) – 19,700,000 in chips
Seat 3:  Eoghan O’Dea (Dublin, Ireland) – 33,925,000 in chips
Seat 4:  Phil Collins (Las Vegas, NV) – 23,875,000 in chips
Seat 5:  Anton Makiievskyi (Dnipropetrovsk, Ukraine) – 13,825,000 in chips
Seat 6:  Sam Holden (Sussex, UK) – 12,375,000 in chips
Seat 7:  Pius Heinz (Cologne, Germany) – 16,425,000 in chips
Seat 8:  Ben Lamb (Tulsa, OK) – 20,875,000 in chips
Seat 9:  Martin Staszko (Trinec, Czech Republic) – 40,175,000 in chips