Another Gambling 911 Exclusive: Why the WSOP Killed the November Nine

Written by:
Published on:

LAS VEGAS -- Nine years ago, the folks who run the World Series of Poker (WSOP) decided to install a four-month break between the setting of the final table of its signature tournament, the Main Event, and the playing of the final table.

Starting in 2008, the nine-person Main Event final table would be set in July and then play would be suspended until November.

The final table members would be dubbed the "November Nine" and it was hoped that the four-month hiatus would provide anticipation and buzz and media excitement as the poker world waited breathlessly to see who would be the new WSOP Main Event champ.

After all, the planet was still in the middle of a worldwide poker boom that started in 2003 when an unknown accountant from Tennesee with the unlikely name of Chris Moneymaker won the WSOP Main Event and millions of dollars after qualifying by winning an online tourney that cost only $39 to enter.

By 2008 poker was red hot and professional poker players were becoming celebrities.

With a four-month break, WSOP officials reasoned, maybe "November Nine" members would end up on late night shows such as Letterman and Leno and maybe even the "Today" show or "Good Morning, America,"--all highly-viewed television programs that would promote the WSOP Main Event.

No such luck.

In fact, not only did the strategy fail, it failed miserably.

From 2008 to 2016, the time period in which the "November Nine" format was used for the WSOP Main Event, not one final table member ever appeared on a network TV show during the four-month breaks.

The low point of the "November Nine" fiasco came in 2009 when WSOP officials thought they lucked out like a leprechaun when top poker pro Phil Ivey made the Main Event final table.

Ivey was one of the best poker players in the world, had earned millions of dollars and was well-known.

Also, his backstory was unique: he was one of the few blacks in a mostly-white pastime and he was dominating--comparisons to Tiger Woods were common.

Ivey would be a media darling and would promote the hell out of the upcoming WSOP Main Event final table, which would be televised on cable channel ESPN--that was the hope of the WSOP.

But the notoriously publicity-shy and media-hating Ivey declined all TV interviews during the break except one, which was done on ESPN the day before the final table began.

(The WSOP should have known what to expect when Ivey skipped out on the press conference in July immediately after the final table was set.)

So for 2017, the WSOP announced earlier this year, the Main Event would return to its original format, sans the four-month break and the "November Nine."

When contacted this week by Gambling 911, WSOP spokesman Seth Palansky put on his best face and denied that the "November Nine" concept was axed because it failed to generate buzz for the Main Event.

Instead, he insisted, the format was changed back because letting the final table play out in July instead of November will allow more of the Main Event to be televised live (actually on a short delay).

"The reason for the change is because our nine-year deal with ESPN was up and we had a chance to look forward as we signed a new four-year deal," Palansky told Gambling 911 in an exclusive interview Thursday at the Rio All-Suites Hotel & Casino, site of the 2017 WSOP. 

"When we signed the last deal in 2008, that’s when we introduced the live final table concept and it made sense to create a big finale," Palansky said. "Fast-forward to today’s world with live-streaming everything and social media everywhere and immediacy became important.

"The 'November Nine' concept wasn’t really about the delay, it was about getting two or three nights in prime time on ESPN when we award our champion. Before that it was a packaged two-hour show airing four months later.

"So ESPN loves the 'November Nine'--live poker in prime time--and wanted to see if there was a way to get more of it.  As such, the TV windows are a lot more open in July than they are in the fall, competing against the NFL, NBA and college sports.

"So ESPN has committed to 40 hours of live TV with the Main Event, starting on Day 1 of the tournament. So now we get the whole thing airing on ESPN and it only made sense in today’s world to play it off immediately, without the delay.

"Best for us, we still get all the two-hour packaged shows airing in the fall too. So ESPN has gone from 12 hours in commitments live to 40 and the same amount of packaged shows as previously."

By Tom Somach

Gambling 911 Staff Writer


Poker News

Poker Power Couple Announces Marriage

Poker Power Couple Announces Marriage

Not since Chucky's Bride and the Unabomber (Jennifer Tilly and Phil Laak) has their been a poker super couple the likes of Loni Harwood and Phillip Hui.  And now comes word the two have tied the knot.

Can I Play on WSOP for Real Money From My State?

Can I Play on WSOP for Real Money From My State?

WSOP.com is now advertising heavily on national television.  Their website is free to use and, as such, is available everywhere in the US.  There are very few states, however, that allow for real money play.  There are real money options in states where WSOP is limited. 

Michael Jai White Expected Naked Poker at a Dr Dre Party: Got the Opposite

Michael Jai White Expected Naked Poker at a Dr Dre Party: Got the Opposite

American actor and martial artist Michael Jai White spoke candidly about his relationship with record mogul Dr. Dre.

Mouth Compares GA Elections to Mike Postle Cheating Scandal

Mouth Compares GA Elections to Mike Postle Cheating Scandal

Poker pro Mike Postle didn't cheat, according to experts, and neither did those overseeing the Georgia Presidential elections.  But don't tell that to Mike "The Mouth" Matusow, one of the game's most outspoken players.

Cashing Out of Online Poker Rooms - Bitcoin The Fastest Preference

Winning Poker Network, parent company of Gambling911.com partner Americas Cardroom, said it has been forced to buy millions in bitcoin a day to meet the demands of exiting players.