2004 World Series of Poker DVD Review
Aug 04, 2005  
by Jason Kirk  

The 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 Highs

  • 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 time.

The Lows

  • 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 rules.

  • "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  and .

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