American cable television network ESPN’s seven-day trial allowing the online audience of the World Series of Poker (WSOP)’s $10,000 No-Limit Hold’em Championship main event to view entrants’ hole cards on a 30-minute delay was created to prevent cheating.
However, even with this delay and many other precautions – including the hole-card cameras being fed into a secure control room – many of the pros have used this innovation from Entertainment and Sports Programming Network (ESPN) to their advantage when facing opponents. And rightly so.
Jamie Horowitz, the ESPN co-ordinating producer, pointed out that “the guys in the hole-card room are the only ones who see the live feed, and they are sequestered from the production team, guarded by security, pass a background test and are approved by the Nevada Gaming Commission”.
Yes, ESPN and the WSOP organisers are taking no chances when providing this thrilling improvement to their main event coverage, with Horowitz adding that “cell [mobile] phones and all forms of communication are strictly forbidden from the (hole-card) room”.
Horowitz also stated that “the first time anyone sees the cards (is) when a hand ends (and) we say to [the room], ‘Reveal the hole cards’.”
While previous WSOP events have not been broadcast on television for many weeks after the conclusion of tournaments, this half-an-hour delay has been brought in to provide broadcasters with a much more ‘live’ feel.
But, of course, many of the more experienced pros have utilised this broadcasting development in an attempt to gain even the slightest advantage – particularly when facing an amateur opponent.
Canadian superstar Daniel Negreanu – who has four WSOP gold bracelets – reckons this “new format is a serious competitive disadvantage for the amateur player”, and admitted that he made use of the ‘live’ hole-card cameras to beat an amateur during the initial stages of the main event.
The 36-year-old – who is known as The Poker Kid – confessed that he “had someone texting me with physical tells while I was at the table”, before providing an example of what he was doing when adding that “there was a guy from St Louis – an amateur – and I knew what he was capable of because I had a friend watching for me”.
Negreanu was keen to know what his opponent would do in a particular situation, posing the question: “Does he only bet when he has two aces, or can he be an aggressive bluffer?”
This knowledge, Negreanu believes, means he “can learn that from watching a single hand” to make a move that will win him hands, although this ploy didn’t do him too much good as he finished down in 211th for $47,107!
Broadcasters ESPN, however, are not overly concerned by this use of their technology, with Horowitz dismissing Negreanu’s claim when saying that, while “information is valuable…you need so much information to act on it, the idea that you can take one hand and learn something is absurd”.
Quite rightly, Horowitz pointed out that, “if I bluff and you see it 30 minutes later, I know that you know and you know that I know – so who has the advantage?” Indeed.
He was also at pains to stress that “we’ve made changes to the format in the past, and purists have complained that it threatened the integrity of the game, but – you know what – it didn’t”.
Horowitz concluded by suggesting that, no matter what advantage players believe they gain by seeing an opponent’s hole cards some time later, “the good players win – it’s that simple”.
We’re not so sure, but he certainly has a point. What do you think? Do pros gain an unfair advantage over amateurs? Or is everything fair when sitting down at a table to play some poker?