What would the World Series of Poker be without ESPN? The two go hand-in-hand like Salt N Peppa, Deadheads and LSD, Astros and trash cans. Once again, ESPN and ESPN2 will broadcast the World Series of Poker Main Event Championship. This year, the 2020 Main Event will be featured on ESPN or ESPN2 for 14 straight days in July. That's correct... two weeks... or 14 consecutive days of Texas Hold'em.
Do you remember the first time you saw poker on ESPN? Was it Moneymaker or Fossilman? The first final table that I remember following was the year Robert Varkonyi in 2002. I have vivid memories of Phil Hellmuth whining about getting busted by Varkonyi and his Queen-ten trash hand and that he'd shave his head if Varoknyi actually won. I didn't even know anything about Hellmuth at the time, but instantly didn't like his abrasive personality. ESPN hooked me in by the fish out of water scenario about the random dude from Brooklyn who went out to Las Vegas to take a shot swimming with sharks.
Varkonyi won by defeating British pro Julian Gardner heads-up to win the 2002 Main Event, the bracelet, and $2 million in cash. Probably the coolest thing about the Varkonyi win were a couple things... 1) Hellmuth was a man of his word and let his head be shaved, 2) ESPN filmed it and aired it.
Varkonyi didn't get the same attention as Chris Moneymaker, but that final table inspired many poker players. I can still remember some of the people at the 2002 WSOP Main Event final table and only because ESPN aired it multiple times... Varkonyi, Gardner, Ralph Perry, Harley Hall, Russ Rosenblum, John Shipley, and Minh Ly. Heck, that was the first time the poker world caught a glimpse of Ralph Perry before Tony G lambasted Perry during the infamous "get on your bike" moment.
Of course, within the next year everyone opened online poker accounts and watch whatever poker they could find on TV (WPT on the Travel Channel and WSOP reruns on ESPN) and a random dude from Tennessee won an online satellite to secure a Main Event seat. Chris Moneymaker won the 2003 WSOP Main Event and the rest is history. Everything blew up at that moment and ESPN facilitated the poker boom and gold rush that ensued. The Moneymaker Effect never would not have taken ahold if ESPN didn't air the 2003 WSOP Main Event and the crew at 441 Productions were not on the floor of Binion's Horseshoe in Downtown Las Vegas recording every moment of the final table.
So, this year, the WSOP and ESPN will continue their broadcast partnership. The focus is on the 2020 Main Event (ah, I miss that brief window of time when ESPN aired non-Hold'em events!) which begins on July 1 and ends on July 14. The 2020 Main Event final table begins on July 12 and plays from 9 to 6. On July 13, they play from 6 to 3 and of course, they play from 3 to a champion on the final day of action on July 14. ESPN will air several hours of coverage every day on either ESPN or ESPN2.
"For the past four years, our partnership with ESPN has been centered on creating the ultimate fan experience by providing wire-to-wire coverage of the World Series of Poker Main Event," said Chief Business Officer of Poker Central JR McCabe via the press release. "We look forward to another year of bringing poker's premier event to fans all across the globe."
"ESPN's yearly World Series of Poker coverage has proven to be an annual favorite with our poker fans," added Rob Temple, the Senior VP of programming and acquisitions at ESPN. "Through our partnership with Poker Central, we look forward to another season of extensive broadcast coverage of the most popular poker event on earth."
The WSOP Ministry of Propaganda has been slowly leaking out bits and pieces about the 2020 schedule. It's a clever ploy and it keeps a steady stream of excitement going about the WSOP instead of one huge frenzied spike in traffic for a couple days then crickets until a week before the WSOP begins. Heck, we're almost done with February and we're still get bread crumbs about the upcoming WSOP.
Here's the ESPN/ESPN2 2020 Main Event schedule ...
2020 WSOP Main Event TV Schedule
- July 1 Day 1A 8:00 PM to 1:00 AM (ET) ESPN2
- July 2 Day 1B 9:00 PM to 11:00 PM ESPN
- July 2 Day 1B 11:00 PM to 1:00 AM ESPN2
- July 3 Day 1C 8:00 PM to 1:30 AM ESPN2
- July 4 Day 2AB 7:30 PM to 10:00 PM ESPN
- July 5 Day 2C 10:00 PM to 1:00 AM ESPN2
- July 6 Day 3 10:00 PM to 2:00 AM ESPN2
- July 7 Day 4 7:00 PM to 11:00 PM ESPN2
- July 8 Day 5 10:00 PM to 2:00 AM ESPN2
- July 9 Day 6 8:00 PM to 12:00 AM ESPN2
- July 10 Day 7 10:00 PM to 12:00 AM ESPN2
- July 12 Day 8 FINAL TABLE (9 to 6) 10:00 PM to TBD ESPN2
- July 13 Day 9 FINAL TABLE (6 to 3) 10:00 PM to TBD ESPN2
- July 14 Day 10 FINAL TABLE 9:00 PM to TBD ESPN