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No live video coverage available for WSOP Main Event

Viewers who are looking for a way to watch the World Series of Poker Main Event final table — stop looking.

There will be no live video coverage, on TV or online, of the final table of the U.S. portion of the Main Event on Monday or the final heads-up duel with the international winner for the bracelet Wednesday at the Rio.

Instead, ESPN will produce six hours of edited coverage that is set to air in February.

WSOP executive director Ty Stewart cited production and scheduling challenges created by the coronavirus pandemic in explaining the change.

“We are kicking it old school with the 2020 Main Event,” Stewart said in an email. “All the programs are edited, partly so we can properly explain the unique format which came about on two continents and partly because COVID has created so much uncertainty on everything related to programming.

“Hard to plan for live, given all the players will need to be tested morning of, our international champion needs to get through all the hoops of travel, etc. We are hopeful we can plan for the full experience of nine players, but some luck will be required. So edited programs are the way.”

Edited broadcasts were the norm in the early days of the poker boom. Chris Moneymaker’s victory in 2003 aired on ESPN long after he had claimed the bracelet at Binion’s.

In 2008, the WSOP switched to the “November Nine” format, in which the tournament paused once nine players were left and they waited several months before resuming to allow the edited footage to be broadcast and build interest in the event.

In 2017, the WSOP went to live coverage of the Main Event with no delay before the final table. That was the plan for this year before the pandemic wiped out the live WSOP.

The poker subscription streaming service PokerGO has partnered with the WSOP the past few years to air live coverage that wasn’t on ESPN, but Stewart confirmed that there will be no livestream this year as the WSOP limits the number of people let into the final table “bubble” at the Rio.

Even ESPN commentators Lon McEachern and Norman Chad won’t be in Las Vegas for the event, Stewart said. They will do their commentary over the edited hands in post-production.

Hand-by-hand reporting on the final table will still be available on WSOP.com and PokerNews.com.

Contact Jim Barnes at jbarnes@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0277. Follow @JimBarnesLV on Twitter.

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