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Saturday, June 23rd, 2007

ESPN Manipulating WSOP

BY TOM SOMACH

Cable television network ESPN is manipulating the World Series of Poker (WSOP) in order to maximize future ratings, it has been claimed.

A source within the WSOP told www.PokerHelper.com that WSOP Event #28, a $3,000 buy-in, no-limit Texas hold ‘em tournament that was held last week, was blatantly manipulated to make sure a certain top name player would be at the tourney’s final table, which would increase TV ratings when the competition is televised later this year.

“Phil Hellmuth, who a week earlier had won a record 11th career WSOP bracelet in Event #15, was now trying to break his own record and win a 12th bracelet in Event #28,” the WSOP source said. “With 10 players left in the tournament, Hellmuth was in tenth place, and it looked like he might not make it to the event’s final table, which is supposed to be nine players and which will be televised later on ESPN.

“So in the middle of the tournament, all of a sudden ESPN declares that the final table for this event will be 10 players, not nine, making sure that Hellmuth will be at the final table,” the WSOP source continued. “It was a joke! Yeah, I know Hellmuth is a popular and controversial player, and that there’s a lot of interest in him right now because of the gold bracelets, and that he’s good for TV ratings, but this was ridiculous!

“The final table at a WSOP event is usually nine players. But because ESPN didn’t want to risk having Hellmuth knocked out in tenth place and not make the final nine, ESPN changed the rules! And the WSOP went right along with it, not saying a thing. ESPN pays a lot for the rights to televise the WSOP, so the WSOP does whatever ESPN says. It was embarassing!”

As it turned out, it wasn’t necessary for ESPN to manipulate the tournament to make sure Hellmuth would be at the final table.

Hellmuth, known as the “Poker Brat” and “Hell Mouth” and originally from Madison, Wisc., finished in sixth place in the tourney, more than good enough to have made a final table of nine players.

So what happens if an upcoming WSOP event comes down to 11 final players, and Hellmuth is in 11th place?

Would ESPN then insist on a final table of 11 for the event?

Don’t bet against it.

The way ESPN is calling the shots in this year’s WSOP, it wouldn’t suprise anyone to see a final table of 50 if that’s what it takes to pump up the ratings.

(E-mail Tom Somach at [email protected])

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