The giant sports television network ESPN has renewed its seven-year broadcast contract with the World Series of Poker, reports Fox Business News.

The agreement will go into effect after the expiration of ESPN's current deal, which concludes with the 2010 WSOP, and will keep new episodes of the world's largest poker tournament airing on the sports cable network through 2018.
 
ESPN's renewed commitment to the annual epic poker tournament, which is owned by Harrah's Entertainment, has surprised some industry observers, who have remarked that audience viewership ratings for this year's (2009) WSOP have been 8 percent lower thus far.  

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In 2008 the poker spectacular attracted 1.13 million viewers, an increase of 15 percent on the 2007 viewership numbers. The 2009 tourney is not over yet, however. The final table of nine players reconvenes in November to decide a winner, and this is expected  to boost ratings.  In 2008, the delayed final table arrangements boosted the viewership by a massive 46 percent over the 2007 statistics, and this year is expected to have a significant impact.