When Peter Eastgate raked the final pile of chips away from Ivan Demidov to become WSOP champion, it marked the end to a poker-filled extravaganza which began over five months ago. It also marked the point at which people would see if the move by the WSOP and ESPN to delay the Main Event final table paid off. Well the results are in and the move proved to be a big success!
The all-important Neilsen ratings showed that the 30 episodes of the smaller WSOP events on ESPN went up 6 percent from last year (0.90). Regarding the main point of interest in the WSOP Main Event final table, ratings showed a big improvement from last year in the form of a 50 percent increase as 1.9 million households tuned in to watch – last year only 1.25 million households watched it.
Going further with this upward trend, ratings showed that the October 21st episode – in which the Main Event saw its field go from 79 players down to 27 – drew a bigger TV audience than did the 2007 final table. With ratings like these, it appears clear that ESPN and the WSOP will probably keep the same format they used this time around.
But my questions is: was it the format which made this year’s WSOP final table so watched or was it the fact that poker is two years removed from the UIGEA? After all, 2006 saw the biggest ratings ever for the final table, and WSOP in general, as Jamie Gold worked his way through the field towards $12 million. However, the UIGEA struck later on in the year and took away a lot of the interest from the game of poker. All this led to a down year in 2007 which made some people question whether poker had simply reached its peak and was on the way down.
Fortunately, poker hasn’t reached it’s peak and looks poised to grow stronger than ever. And maybe it’s a combination of both the switch and the two years separation from the UIGEA for why the WSOP ratings are on the upswing again; who knows? Whatever the case may be I’m glad to see the promising ratings of the 2008 WSOP and hope that the game continues to grow in future years too.