Antonio Esfandiari's WSOP Commentary Draws Criticism

The poker industry is all about attracting recreational players these days, from offering preferential reward programs online to providing analysis on TV poker shows that are tailor-made to appeal to casual viewers of the game. It’s not always easy striking a balance which makes professional players feel part of the process, though, with the most recent example of the challenges involved provided by ESPN’s coverage of the WSOP Main Event final table.
The ESPN booth included Norman Chad and Lon McEachern, both entertaining poker presenters, but whose tournament earnings are a mere $85,727 and $27,169 respectively. They were joined in the commentary box by Antonio Esfandiari, a 3-times WSOP bracelet winner with $27,321,225 in winnings to his name, and it appears those professional players tuning in to watch the broadcast were expecting a greater level of insight from the no-limit hold’em specialist.
Instead, Esfandiari seems to have drawn crticism for stating the obvious and providing outdated analysis, according to an article posted by Esfandiari’s detractors included Connor Drinan, a US pro with $10,162,522 in earnings, and Canadian pro Sam Greenwood ($4,270,213), who tweeted a number of negative comments about Esfandiari’s contributions during the show, including the following conversation:
Drinan: “we get it Antonio, you love the continuation bet.”
Greenwood: “Drink every time he says ‘I like leading here’”
Drinan: “or ‘checking the turn shows weakness’,”
Even one of the game’s best players, Phil Galfond, felt compelled to contribute to the discussion, although his comments were more constructive, and sought to suggest ways in which TV poker commentary could evolve in the future to satisfy more evolving and savvy viewers. As Galfond tweeted:
“I believe some thinking needs to be done about how to adapt poker broadcasting to the way the game is [played] these days. There’s a fine line between good/factual hand analysis & framing things such that the players can either make the ‘standard’ or ‘bad’ play. I really like every single person on the broadcasting team as announcers/analysts. I just think the approach should adapt to the game.”
Despite his subtle criticism, Galfond makes a good point that TV poker commentators could learn from in the future, namely that offering a simplified level of analysis for casual players shouldn’t take precedence over providing a correct assessment of the sophisticated thought processes and tactics being employed by the professional players around the table.

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