Poker on television

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

Poker television programs had been extremely popular, especially in North America and Europe, following the poker boom. This has especially become the case since the invention of the "pocket cam" in 1997 (and its first use in the United States in 2002), which allows viewers at home to see each player's hole cards. However, viewership has been declining dramatically in recent years.

History[edit]

Poker has been appearing on television somewhat regularly since the late-1970s. In the United States, CBS started airing the final table of the World Series of Poker (WSOP) Main Event as an annual one hour show around this time and later by ESPN, which were casino-produced shows produced under a time-buy arrangement for sports omnibus programming such as the CBS Sports Spectacular. For many years, the coverage was less than robust because viewers at home could not see what cards the players had or follow their progress visually through graphics. Instead, the coverage essentially involved the commentators guessing what cards the players had in a documentary style production.

In 1997 the hole cam, which allows audiences to see the hidden cards that players held in their hands, was introduced in Europe. The hole cam was patented by WSOP bracelet winner Henry Orenstein and first used in the Late Night Poker television series. It was used again in the inaugural Poker Million tournament in 2000 which boasted the attraction of the first £1,000,000 poker game on live television. By 2001, however, Late Night Poker had been cancelled in the UK and televised poker could no longer be found in Europe. In the US, the 1999, 2000 and 2001 World Series of Poker events were only broadcast in one hour documentaries on the Discovery Networks.

In 1999, documentary filmmaker Steven Lipscomb produced and directed a documentary on the WSOP for the Discovery Channel. It was the first U.S. poker production funded entirely by a television network rather than the casino. When the 1999 WSOP aired, it doubled its audience over the hour time slot. Seeing the audience reaction, Lipscomb believed there was an untapped market and began pitching poker series ideas to cable and network television. Because poker had been on the air for over twenty years, with little viewer interest, broadcasters were unwilling to commit resources to put a series on the air.

In October 2001, Lipscomb wrote a business plan. Along with poker player Mike Sexton and poker business woman Linda Johnson, Lipscomb approached casino mogul and avid poker player, Lyle Berman, whose company Lakes Entertainment agreed to fund the World Poker Tour—the first organized and televised tour of poker tournaments in the world.

In June 2002, WPT filmed its first episode at Bellagio in Las Vegas. Wanting to create a compelling, action-packed show, WPT took eight months to edit the first WPT episode. ESPN, who resumed their coverage of the World Series of Poker in 2002, featured pocket cam technology in their return broadcast—albeit, in a very limited capacity—prior to the WPT's first show.

During this time, the “WPT Format” was created featuring the WPT hole cam, interactive graphics and “live sports feel”. These new features put viewers into the minds and at the heart of the action. The first WPT episode aired on March 30, 2003 on the Travel Channel and became an instant success (the highest rated show in network history).

A few months later, ESPN's broadcast of the 2003 World Series of Poker adopted many features characteristic of the emerging WPT series; with an improved graphic display detailing the exciting action of the Main Event's final table. This, coupled with the unlikely outcome in the 2003 WSOP Main Event—where Tennessee accountant Chris Moneymaker won $2.5 million after winning his seat through a $39 PokerStars satellite tournament—and the ensuing publicity only further sparked the already accelerated interest in the game initiated by the WPT.

These events are credited as being the main contributor's in poker's booming popularity—increasing the number of entrants into live poker tournaments (at all levels), the growth of online poker and the overall greater interest in the game—but above all others, the 2003 World Series of Poker Main Event (and subsequent broadcast on ESPN) is most cited as poker's Tipping Point; commonly referred to as the "Moneymaker Effect".

Poker gained further exposure in Canada and much of the United States as a result of the 2004-05 NHL lockout, which caused sports networks in both countries to air poker as replacement programming for their NHL coverage.[citation needed]

The much improved ratings of poker television programs from this point on lead to ESPN covering many more events of the World Series of Poker (in addition the Main Event as in the past) since 2003, as well as covering some other tournaments outside of the World Series, such as the United States Poker Championship. Since it first broadcast, WPT has also expanded its tour stops from 12 events at seven casino partner locations to 23 domestic and international tournaments and 14 casino partners in Season VI.

Since the introduction of the hole cam and WPT television format, poker has become almost ubiquitous in the US and Europe. While poker originally aired on sports channels such as ESPN and Sky Sports has expanded to such "non traditional" networks as Bravo and GSN. All poker television programs make heavy use of the aforementioned pocket cam and television format, plus generally feature a "straightman" and a "comedian" type of commentators, with one often being a professional poker player.

With the ability to edit a tournament that lasts days into just a few hours, ESPN's World Series of Poker broadcasts generally focus on showing how various star players fared in each event. Key hands from throughout the many days of each year's WSOP Main Event are shown, and similar highly edited coverage of final tables is also provided. For the events in the WSOP before the Main Event, only the final table is covered in television coverage, similar to how the Main Event was televised before ESPN's airing of the 2003 World Series Main Event.

The World Poker Tour does not offer general coverage of the multi-day poker tournaments. Instead, the WPT covers only the action at the final table of each event. With aggressive play and increasing blinds and antes, the important action from a single table can easily be edited into a two hour episode. Although the tournament fate of fewer stars are chronicled this way, it allows the drama to build more naturally toward the final heads up showdown.

Although most poker shows on television focus on tournaments, High Stakes Poker shows a high-stakes cash game. In this game professional and amateur players play no limit Texas Hold 'em with their own money (the minimum to enter the game is $100,000). This game has allowed spectators to observe differences between cash games and tournaments, and to see how players adjust their play to the different format.[1]

Poker's growth in Europe led to the creation of two FTA channels: The Poker Channel and Pokerzone. Both began broadcasting during 2005.

Although once popular poker television programs have steadily been losing their audience. ESPN is on contract to show World Series of Poker programming through 2017, though viewership has dropped dramatically since the early boom.

Poker television programs[edit]

Here is a list of poker television programs that have aired on television in either North America or Europe.

North America[edit]

Program Network Years aired Current commentators
World Series of Poker CBS;
ESPN
1978–1981, 1983;
1987 onwards1
Lon McEachern and Norman Chad
United States Poker Championship ESPN 1997–2000;
2003-2006
Lon McEachern and Norman Chad
World Poker Tour The Travel Channel;
GSN;
Fox Sports Net
2003–2007;
2008-2009;
2009 onwards
Mike Sexton and Vince Van Patten
European Poker Tour Sportsnet Canada 2004 onwards James Hartigan and Joe Stapleton
Celebrity Poker Showdown Bravo 2003–2006 Dave Foley and Phil Gordon
Poker Superstars Invitational Tournament Fox Sports Net 2004 onwards Chris Rose and Howard Lederer
Ultimate Poker Challenge syndication 2004 onwards Chad Brown and weekly guest
Poker Royale GSN 2004–2006 John Ahlers and Robert Williamson III
High Stakes Poker GSN 2006–2011
Professional Poker Tour The Travel Channel 2006–2007 Matt Corboy and Mark Seif
National Heads-Up Poker Championship NBC 2005 onwards Matt Vasgersian and Gabe Kaplan
Poker Dome Challenge Fox Sports Net 2006–2007 Barry Tompkins and Michael Konik
Poker After Dark NBC 2007–2011 Oliver Nejad
Pro-Am Poker Equalizer ESPN 2007 Phil Gordon and Oliver Nejad
Heartland Poker Tour syndication 2005 onwards Fred Bevill and Maria Ho
Pokerstars Big Game Fox Network 2010-2011 Joe Stapleton Scott Huff Chris Rose Amanda Leatherman
Poker Night in America CBS Sports Network 2014 onwards Chris Hanson

1 ESPN did not air the WSOP in 1996 or 1999–2001; The Discovery Channel did air one-hour specials of the 2000 & 2001 Main Events

Europe[edit]

Program Network Years aired Current commentators
Late Night Poker Channel 4 (UK)
Fox Sports Net (US)
1999–2002, 2006 onwards Jesse May and Barny Boatman (final season)
Poker Million Sky Sports 2000, 2003 onwards Jesse May and John Duthie
World Heads-Up Poker Championship Unknown 2001 onwards Unknown
Celebrity Poker Club Challenge (UK) 2003 onwards Jesse May and Victoria Coren
European Poker Tour Channel 4 (UK) 2004 onwards James Hartigan and Joe Stapleton
Victor Chandler Poker Cup Sky Sports 2004 onwards Jesse May and Barny Boatman
The Gaming Club World Poker Championship Sky Sports 2004 Unknown
British Poker Open The Poker Channel 2005 onwards Unknown
World Speed Poker Open The Poker Channel 2005 onwards Gary Jones, Roy Brindley, Lucy Rokach
Late Night Poker Ace Channel 4 (UK) 2005 onwards Jesse May and Simon Trumper
PartyPoker Poker Den (season 1-3, season 4 renamed to PartyPoker Big Game) Challenge (UK) 2005 onwards Grub Smith and Tony Cascarino
William Hill Poker Grand Prix Sky Sports 2006 onwards Jesse May, Andrew Black, Lucy Rokach
Poker Nations Cup Channel 4 (UK) 2006 onwards Jesse May, Barny Boatman and Padraig Parkinson
PartyPoker.com Football & Poker Legends Cup Five (UK) 2006 onwards Jesse May, Padraig Parkinson and Ken Lennaárd
Pokerheaven.com Online Series of Poker CNBC 2006 onwards Unknown
Fulltiltpoker.com Million Dollar Cash Game Sky Sports 2006 onwards Unknown
La Notte del Poker SKY Sport 2 2006 onwards Pupo, Zero Assoluto, Chiara Edelfa Masciotta
Pokermania Italia 1 (Italy) 2007 onwards Ciccio Valenti and Luca Pagano

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Burton, Earl (May 24, 2006). "'High Stakes Poker' Back for a Second Season in June". PokerNews. Retrieved October 27, 2006. 

External links[edit]