Poker Shows on TV
Within the last few years, the ‘sport’ of poker has exploded into this world. A simple card game that has been played for over a hundred years has made its way to the mainstream public. Without a doubt one of the main reasons for this occurrence has been the sudden rise of poker shows on TV. Televised poker has exploded the game beyond most expectations and is one of the reasons I became hooked on the game.
World Series of Poker
The program that started it all is the World Series of Poker which aired on ESPN. I am sure many people found themselves spinning through the program guide and crossed this show and thought, ‘hmmm, I wonder what this is about’. Many figured that watching 9 people sitting around a table playing cards would be as boring as watching the grass grow or paint dry. Yet, that was not the case. The intrigue of seeing the competitors playing for millions of dollars became addictive, and people wanted more. It is to this show that the world of poker owes a great debt. Without the WSOP being televised on ESPN, the world of poker would not be the same.
In 1997 a gentleman by the name of Harry Orenstein invented the ‘hole camera’. This little device allowed the viewers at home to see the cards the players had in their hand as the hand was being played. With this knowledge, they could see how the player was playing his cards—and more importantly in the game of poker, his opponent. Yet, they could also see his competitor’s cards as well so the agony of having complete information allowed the viewer to ‘play along’ with full information. Many attribute the hole camera to being the reason poker became a success on television.
World Poker Tour
Once the success of ESPN’s broadcast of the World Series of Poker became evident, other shows soon followed. The next big poker show was the World Poker Tour. The WPT took Poker to the next step on television. They of course had the hole cam, but also put on colorful commentary and focused on building characters or “name” players. Now there was insightful discussion while the hand was being played, but also passion and fun to the game. Nearing the level of a sporting event, a simple game of cards became thrill ride of up and down emotion that had millions of dollars at stake. Viewers were able to have their hero’s (Daniel Negraneu) or villains (Phil Helmuth).
Other Poker Shows
Several other show have come along, Celebrity Poker Showdown, and Poker After Dark, to name a few, but it is High Stakes Poker that stands alone in my opinion. High Stakes Poker is not a tournament style show, which all the others are based upon. This program watches the players play a live ‘ring’ game. Players put up their own money, sometimes $1 million, on the table that could be won or lost. Typical pots on each hand have more money in the middle then most people make in an entire year. And we sit and watch them smile and banter back and forth and play this simple game of cards. The discussion they have with each other shows us that these are just normal people, but the tool of money is just that—a tool they use in their everyday jobs like normal people use staples. Money is just an object they are playing for…at the rate of $80,000 pots (or in many times much more).
Poker on television may seem rather dull to sit and watch, but if you enjoy the game, it truly is not boring. It made the game I love explode onto the world, and has made millionaires out of seemingly everyday people. Yet, these people are not your normal everyday Joe. They are athletes that use money as their tool, and excitement and passion as their goal.