For the 2017 WSOP Main Event, PokerGO and ESPN have split live streaming duties. Now that the final table of the 2017 WSOP Main Event has been determined the coverage will be exclusively available on ESPN from here on out in the U.S.
With its first WSOP is over, I’ve graded PokerGO in several areas and offer up a few ideas that could improve the product going forward.
What is PokerGO?
First, for those that aren’t aware of the product, PokerGO is an ambitious undertaking brought to you by Poker Central.
The exclusive poker content on PokerGO was only available to paid subscribers. Outside of the few hours of daily Main Event coverage on the ESPN networks, poker fans needed to cough up $10/month (or $99 for the year) to watch the WSOP. Users will also have access other exclusive content that will be made available on PokerGO in the coming months.
Preliminary event coverage leaves room for improvement
If you’re familiar with the poker community, it will come as no surprise that a lot of people complained about being charged for something that is usually free.
Complaints grew even louder when the schedule had several off-days and seemed to cover fewer events than the free streams of the past.
They had a point, as in some ways PokerGO cut-back on coverage. However, it also expanded the length of coverage for the selected tournaments. Most importantly, it improved the production value of said coverage.
Still, when they plan out the 2018 WSOP streaming schedule my advice to Poker GO is to heed the words of New England Patriots’ coach Bill Belichick, “No days off!” PokerGO simply cannot have off-days during the World Series of Poker.
Also, the WSOP is extremely unpredictable and it’s difficult to gauge which final tables will be blockbusters. Even though the scope of their production is fairly grand, some flexibility in choosing final tables to cover would be beneficial. It’s pretty safe to say that if the fans were bummed they missed a final table featuring top poker pros, so was PokerGO, meaning I’m sure they’ll take this into consideration moving forward.
Grading preliminary event coverage
Taking everything into consideration, PokerGO’s coverage of preliminary tournaments is going to get a generous B- grade.
Main Event coverage was really solid
On the other hand, without PokerGO there wouldn’t be any coverage of the preliminary days of the Main Event other than edited down ESPN episodes. So, as annoying as a reduced preliminary schedule is, the additional Main Event coverage makes up for it. It’s because of PokerGO that poker enthusiasts finally get to see unedited action leading up to the final table.
For that reason alone, PokerGO’s subscription price was worth it.
As an added bonus, the coverage leading up to the final table didn’t disappoint.
I do have one specific criticism.
I’d like to see PokerGO take a page out of golf’s playbook and record each table in real-time and quickly edit down key hands that can be shown during the inevitable lulls in the upcoming action.
Several big hands played out on secondary tables, but the cameras focused on a different table and we didn’t get to see the footage. This left many people scrambling to PokerNews or WSOP.com to find the written report for the hand.
Grading Main Event coverage
PokerGO upped its game when it came to the Main Event, and earned a B+ grade.
Fresh voices in the commentary booth
In addition to the familiar voices of Lon McEachern, Norman Chad, and Antonio Esfandiari, PokerGO relied heavily on the commentary team of Ali Nejad and Nick Schulman. A familiar face, David Tuchman also joined along with guest commentators like Phil Laak, David Williams, Doug Polk, who handled a lot of the commentary during the preliminary events.
Nejad is a known commodity in poker commentary and a true professional, but Schulman shined the brightest.
Schulman was witty, provided excellent (perfectly watered down) analysis, and showed a deep knowledge of the players and poker’s history.
PokerGO hit a home run with Schulman and Nejad, and will wisely be using them for several upcoming projects.
Grading the commentary teams
I have to give the commentary team an A grade.[i15-table tableid=20717][i15-table tableid=19346]
A couple easy fixes
Quick fix #1
Many people on social media asked about the day’s streaming schedule, and visiting PokerGO wouldn’t answer those questions. PokerGO needs to create a TV Guide-esque section where people can find this information.
Quick fix #2
Rather than relive the same hands with different commentators during breaks (or in some case, just putting up an “ON BREAK” dead air graphic), let’s get to know these players we just watched. Maybe give some background on players at the featured tables who figure to be important players in the upcoming action.
Instead of throwing it to Phil Hellmuth and Daniel Negreanu for analysis, PokerGO would be better served by having one of them interview a specific player and running vignettes on the players, much like the NFL does pregame and at halftime.
What happens now that the Main Event is over?
Unfortunately, the WSOP only lasts for two months, so PokerGO still has another 10 months of poker content to fill.
PokerGO should have a real fear that subscribers might cancel en masse now that the WSOP is over. In that way, subscriptions would be more of a seasonal revenue stream.
Luckily, PokerGO made some announcements that should help it retain its current subscribers.
During the WSOP, PokerGO:
- Announced it would be resurrecting and producing new episodes of Poker After Dark.
- Announced the Poker Masters, a week-long high-roller tournament series that will take place at Aria and will be streamed exclusively on PokerGO.
It’s successful (not perfect, but definitely successful) WSOP coverage, and announcements of new, exclusive content for PokerGO subscribers should make people think twice before cancelling their subscription now that the WSOP is over.