After 19 years, the World Series of Poker ended their broadcast partnership with ESPN. Out is ESPN, in is CBS Sports. The first time the WSOP was ever aired on American TV, it occurred on CBS back in the 1970s. In one way, the WSOP returns home to its initial roots at CBS after a two-decade relationship with the ESPN behemoth.
The 2021 WSOP will play out live at the Rio Casino in Las Vegas this fall starting on September 30 and running through November 23. The powers that be decided to push the start date of the 2021 WSOP from the summer to the fall. The WSOP will also host an online bracelet series this summer as a replacement event, just like last summer. A total of 33 bracelet events, starting July 1, will be played out for Americans at WSOP.com. The WSOP suits have yet to announce the online schedule for international players at GGPoker.
CBS Sports will air 15 hours of 2021 WSOP Main Event coverage, plus additional coverage of other WSOP bracelet events. The other events will make up 36 hours of programming from at least 18 other bracelet events, which is pretty cool if you like to watch other types of poker aside from no-limit. Looks like CBS Sports will air two hours of final table coverage of those 18 additional events.
"CBS Sports has long been a pioneer in covering a broad range of championship sports," WSOP Executive Director Ty Stewart said via a statement. "We couldn't be more excited to see increased television coverage of the WSOP in the coming years and benefit from their growing media platforms."
"Following our past success with PokerGO, we are excited to expand our relationship with the highest-profile and richest event in competitive tournament poker featuring the best players in the world. This deal fits perfectly in our strategy to combine best-in-class events with our CBS Sports brand," said Dan Weinberg, CBS Sports Executive VP of Programming.
Apparently there will be additional coverage, including exclusive content for Paramount+. The WSOP will make that announcement in the future.
ESPN first aired the WSOP since the start of the century, back when it was played out at Binion's Horseshoe in downtown Las Vegas, and the final table was record inside Benny's Bullpen. One of the first glimpse of the Main Event I caught happened with the 2002 WSOP when Robert Varkonyi outlasted a final table stocked with pros to win a bracelet and a sweet first-place prize worth $2 million. Phil Hellmuth was a part of the broadcast team and he made a prop bet that he'd shave his head of Varkonyi the amateur won.
Side note: Hellmuth was KO'd from the Main Event by Varkonyi's Queen-ten, which Hellmuth still whines about two decades later.