World College Poker Championship: fast play and product placement

Kat Martin
Published by:
Posted on August 21, 2021 11:01 pm EDT

World College Poker crowned its champion today, as Jeon “JJackD” Changhyun from the Republic of Korea outlasted a field of around 1300 college students to win the title.

In addition to Changhyun, the six-handed final table featured two Argentinians, Gabriel “gabi98bac” Railman and Joaquin “joaqqoo” Monetto. Also at the final table were Ashutosh “RageAce00” Karwa and Pulkit “pulkitgoyal53” Goyal (both from India) and a lone European representative, James “jdyeti” Yeatman from the UK. Despite the tournament being open to U.S. college students, none advanced to the final table.

The action was broadcast live on the Solve For Why YouTube channel, with host Alec Rome accompanied by Matt Berkey and Clayton Fletcher, who provided commentary and analysis. Two-time Women’s U.S. Poker Champion and PokerStars pro Jennifer Shahade joined the commentary team after the first break.

PokerStars.net provided the platform for the tournament, thereby ensuring global participation for this freeroll. The company also donated the attractive first prize of a European Poker Tour package valued at €8,000. Winner Changhyun will also get to play Patrick Antonius in a heads-up contest.

All six players at the final table received a dizzying array of smaller prizes donated by sponsors, including hotel gift certificates, PokerStars swag bags, poker training site subscriptions, and other poker-related merch. Second-place finisher Pulkit Goyal also won a three-day trip to the Solve For Why Academy in Las Vegas, where he will receive instruction from Matt Berkey.

Despite hole cards being hidden, the one hundred minutes of final table action proved entertaining. This was largely the result of the remarkable speed with which the contestants made their decisions. Even with the shot clock of online events, a major perceived problem in broadcasting them is the mind-numbingly slow pace at which many famous pros tend to act. If this final table is indicative of the next generation of poker superstars, we are thrilled to note that endless tanking is not part of their playbook.

Sponsors galore

While the pace of play was unusual, one other element of the broadcast was unfortunately predictable.

When the annual World Series of Poker moved from Binion’s to the Rio in 2005, veterans were amazed by the degree of the concomitant commercialization. Enormous inflatable beer cans lined the corridors like sinister sentries, as contestants found themselves with an “all-in button” carrying the logo of a beef jerky company.

The first hour of today’s World College Poker broadcast saw a procession of sponsors being pulled in to the Zoom call, pimping their products. Simultaneously, a rolling ticker beneath Rome, Berkey, and Fletcher advertised everything from poker training sites and bankroll management apps to energy drinks. The advertisements continued in a side bar throughout the remainder of the coverage.

We recognize that any commercial endeavor requires sponsorship and the backing of advertisers, but it’s possible to overdo it. Interviewing those sponsors while key hands are occurring, for example, may strike some poker fans as compromising the quality of the poker coverage. Moreover, when the sponsors include a store that sells “Aquarian crystals” (for luck, presumably), and another is extolling the virtues of honey infusions, it’s conceivable the sponsorship net was cast a little too wide.

That said, the poker itself was high in quality and compelling to watch. If these young players bring their fast-paced games to the live felt, it will greatly enhance both the spectacle and the joy of playing poker.

Featured image source: Twitter