Last night, ESPN started airing the main event of the 2005 World Series of Poker. For two hours every Tuesday for the next six weeks, we can watch the most exciting moments of the highest paying (official) competition the world has ever known. It’s a great learning opportunity. The problem with most poker broadcasts is that they only show the final table, when the blinds and stakes are far higher than they were in the opening stages of the tournament. For novices such as me, this can lead to some grave misunderstandings about the game. Granted, there’s far more drama at a final table, when players are constantly going all in with moderate hands and short stacks, and when the prizes get larger and larger with each elimination. However, we must remember that strategy changes greatly at this late stage. Watching the ten or so hours of footage leading up to the main event final table serves as a great reminder of this fact. It’s a chance to watch great (and not so great)players handle the decisions one will face 99% of the time at the poker table. Sure, ESPN is still editing it down to the most interesting confrontations, but there’s plenty of opportunity to witness the discipline and thoughtfulness of poker at it’s finest. The best game I’ve ever watched was a live broadcast that ended in a match between Phil Ivey and John D’Agostino. This was a defining moment in my poker education. Watching it live provided me with a glimpse of the nuance and, yes, tedium of expert play. It was an eye-opening treat seeing these guys trade chips back and forth, fold, get lucky/unlucky, and, ultimately for D’Agostino, fatigue and start making mistakes. It really drove home for me the lesson that poker is, above all, a game of patience. As 5,619 players vie for the WSOP top prize, I look forward to seeing a little more of that.