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WSOP09 $50K HORSE Days 3 and 4
CEO "Rocket Boy" 06.28.2009

ESPN needs to admit to its sports-TV-oriented self that poker will never be as popular as, say, tennis or golf. This year's World Series of Poker $50K HORSE event won't be aired, due to declining ratings. The viewing public apparently isn't interested in anything other than no-limit Hold'em.

But I don't think that switching to no-limit Hold'em at the final table is a good idea. Daniel Negreanu argues in his poker journal that this would have kept the number of entrants up in the 140 range as in the previous years. And more importantly that it would have kept ratings high enough to satisy ESPN.

When you do that, it's no longer a HORSE tournament. Yes, many of the superstar players will be at the final table. But no, the public won't be seeing the games they played to get there. Okay, then what if they just played a big buy-in NLH tournament instead? They already did, and it'll be shown on ESPN. It was the first event: the $40K NLH event held in honor of the WSOP's 40th anniversary.

In 2006, the final table of the inaugural $50K HORSE event was NLH-only and the legendary Chip Reese won the grueling heads-up battle against Andy Bloch. Since then, the format has reverted to pure HORSE until the end, and ratings have suffered. And with no TV coverage, many pros didn't get backing, so fewer of them entered the event. Their backers got more bang for the buck, in terms of logo exposure, with that $40K NLH event.

But the 95 players who started this year's $50K HORSE event yet again included the world's best, from all around the world. And that's exactly who and what I came Las Vegas to see and photograph.

Freddie Deeb greets his fans on day 3. He finished in the money in 14th. No repeat this year.

Todd Brunson playing a razz round on day 3

Thor Hansen playing razz on day 3. It's evidently quite the migraine-inducing game.

Three-table play on day 4: they played from 19 down to the final 8 in just 8 hours.

Chau Giang goes into final table play with less than 1.1 million, third shortest of the final 8.

David Chiu just couldn't get rolling. He finished 12th after losing all but one big blind's worth of chips.

Ville Wahlbeck will be the shortest stack going into final table play, his 645K giving him an M of about 10.

Eric Sagstrom kept building a massive stack, and will lead the final table with 3.7 million.

Next blog: $50K HORSE final table...

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