2004 World Series of Poker was a record-breaking event by anyone's
standards. The number of entrants and the total prize pool surpassed that of
the previous year by a healthy margin, and the media coverage given to the
event was also unprecedented. The final tables of various preliminary events
were aired on ESPN, and the Main Event was broken into ten two-hour
episodes. The coverage was complete enough to keep ESPN viewers pleased -
the 2004 WSOP garnered a higher television rating than any other poker
program that had ever been produced before.
Now ESPN Original Entertainment has brought the 2004 World Series of Poker to
DVD, giving poker players all over a chance to watch their favorite players
and moments from the world's largest poker tournament again and again. The
three-disc set, available for $19.99, packages all ten episodes covering the
Main Event together with a bonus disc filled with almost three hours' worth
of extras. The Main Event coverage is exactly the same as what was shown on
ESPN the first time around, so if you're looking for something new here
you'll be disappointed. For those who want to review the 2004 WSOP for other
reasons, however, there is plenty of interesting material to be had.
The production values. ESPN put a lot of effort into
producing a good-looking television program, and it shows. The picture is
clear and the sound quality is good. You won't be straining your eyes or
ears when you watch this DVD.
The educational value. For anyone who's a relative
newcomer to no-limit Texas Hold'em, there are very few resources out there
that will allow them to see as many top players in action as the 2004 WSOP
on DVD. Every big-time professional plays in the Main Event and ESPN devotes
a lot of camera time to these players, especially in the earlier episodes.
Watching how these players make their decisions is one of the better
learning tools around for neophytes, whether it's watching Daniel Negreanu
crash and burn on Day One by playing too aggressively against players who
can't be bluffed or watching Dan Harrington pull off the bluff of the
century with 6-2 off-suit at the final table. Greg Raymer's commentary track
on the final table is also a priceless educational tool for new players, as
he walks through his decision-making process step-by-step for each hand that
was shown on television.
The bonus disc. Here's the true gem in this collection.
The bonus disc includes highlights from the $1000 No-Limit Hold'em final
table, highlights from the $2000 Pot-Limit Omaha final table, insightful
Main Event final table commentary by World Champion Greg Raymer, a
featurette on three-time WSOP Main Event champion Stu Ungar, the entire 2004
WSOP Tournament of Champions, and the final table of the Kansas City Lowball
event which never aired on ESPN. It would have been very easy to throw a
handful of worthless "features" together for a DVD that's guaranteed to sell
well during the poker boom, but ESPN took the high road on this one.
Particularly entertaining is the Tournament of Champions, in which Annie
Duke sends Phil Hellmuth spiraling into one of his biggest meltdowns of all
Explaining the rules of Texas Hold'em over and over. One
of the best parts of the DVD format is that it allows you to remove
unnecessary material. ESPN decided not to take advantage of the format, and
included the minute long explanation of the rules of Texas Hold'em in every
episode of the Main Event. This means fast-forwarding every time this
segment comes up, an annoyance that could have easily been avoided by
including the segment once on the bonus disc for anyone who needed to review
"The Nuts." These segments, included in each episode of
ESPN's coverage, feature such fascinating material as watching Chris "Jesus"
Ferguson chop vegetables in half with playing cards and a Blind Man's Bluff
tournament among top professionals. Again, these are segments that get in
the way and could've been included separately on the bonus disc.
The commentary. ESPN's poker commentary duo of Lon
McEachern and Norman Chad just isn't as good as their competition, mostly
because there's very little real poker analysis and too much stilted joking.
While it's understandable that having a professional help out with the
commentary might be difficult during the one event every professional wants
to play, the commentary is still a bit forced.
The high points of this DVD set far outweigh the low
points, and make the 2004 World Series of Poker a must-have for anyone with
a poker DVD collection. The three-disc set is available for $19.99 at