It won’t be the weeks-long recurring show many fans are used to, but the World Series of Poker will once again be broadcast on the ESPN family of networks. And it’s coming to a TV near you in just a few short days.
The 2020 WSOP will be broadcast starting at 8 p.m. EST on Sunday, Feb. 28 and lasting four hours, with everything carried on ESPN2. The shows will chronicle both the domestic and international editions of the $10,000 WSOP Main Event, culminating in the $1 million heads-up match between the champions of those tournaments, Joseph Hebert and Damian Salas, respectively.
The schedule, speculated upon for weeks, was confirmed via a presser released by the WSOP this afternoon.
“We could not be more excited to deliver poker fans new primetime content on ESPN,” said Ty Stewart, executive director of the WSOP. “With compelling storylines and unpredictable action, these episodes remind us all why there was a poker boom in the first place.”
New Format, Feel for 2020 Coverage
Of course, the radical changes wrought to the WSOP by COVID-19 necessitated a new format to the event, which saw most of the play take place online on WSOP.com (U.S. players) and GGPoker (international players).
The final tables of each portion were played out live but were not broadcast via livestream, making for a marked change in the coverage from previous years. Instead, the only access to real-time results came through PokerNews’ own reporting from both final tables.
That means that while the hand histories themselves may be on record, nearly all viewers will be witnessing the action for the first time. That hearkens back to the days of tape-delayed TV releases that predated modern streaming broadcasts that changed the way the WSOP is consumed by the average fan.
“We are ecstatic that even in an unprecedented year, we can give our audience another fantastic World Series of Poker event to look forward to,” said Tim Bunnell, senior VP, programming & acquisitions, ESPN. “The format may be different, but the action remains captivating.”
Additionally, the commentary team will have a new look. After nearly two decades of Lon McEachern and Norman Chad calling the action, with a variety of co-hosts joining them in recent years, the McEachern will instead team with popular pro Jamie Kerstetter.
In another departure from previous years, which saw the broadcast split between ESPN and ESPN2, only the latter will carry the poker action.
It’ll be four hours straight through showing the pertinent hands from both the domestic and live final tables. It’s not currently known in what order the tournaments will be shown, or whether they’ll be edited in some format that follows both at once.
Once those are finished, the epic heads-up match between Salas and Hebert figures to fill plenty of airtime, considering it proved a grueling affair lasting more than 170 hands.
It’s not known what role, if any, PokerGO will play in the coverage. Currently, PokerGO holds the rights to the historic broadcasts and has all of the old WSOPs for subscriber access in its on-demand archive. PokerNews has inquired whether the 2020 broadcast will join them in the vaults and will post an update if and when an answer is received. Update: PokerNews was told the 2020 broadcast is “expected to be on PokerGO in the future” but the timeline has yet to be determined.