While televised sports tournaments have always been popular, in recent years poker on TV has been flourishing. For many years a number of TV channels have been showing different poker tournaments typically with one or two nights a week dedicated to celebrity poker games.
There are numerous reasons behind the success of televised poker.
Just as people root for their favourite football team, a lot of people are drawn to televised poker to back their favourite pros and celebrities. With these kinds of games, the buy-ins are beyond the typical players reach and as such being able to watch other wins and lose thousands of dollars is appealing and exciting to many.
Some people are drawn to TV poker for educational purposes. Some people say that they can learn new poker skills by watching others play without playing themselves. Whilst some claim this is not a good idea, it is undeniable that watching poker on TV familiarises you with the terminology and strategy.
Here we take a look at 5 of the best poker TV shows past and present.
High Stakes Poker
High Stakes Poker was the first poker-based show that featured cash games rather than tournaments. The programme was first aired in 2006 and is now one of the most watched poker programmes on television. High Stakes Poker is particularly popular as viewers get to see both the very elite in the poker world such as Doyle Brunson, Phil Ivey and Tom Dwan, battle it out at the most exclusive casinos in Las Vegas. Unlike many other poker shows where the focus is on tournaments, with High Stakes Poker all the money at risk is real and with regularl pots of more than half a million dollars on the show you can really feel the tension.
The World Poker Tour
The World Poker Tour first aired on television in 2003, and it didn’t take long for the show to reach Travel Channels highest rated programme. The show features great poker which follows the World Poker Tours tournament events around the world. The show is aired on a number of channels including GSN, the Travel Channel and Fox Sports and typically runs on Sundays and Wednesdays at 8PM and 11PM and at other times throughout the week.
The World Series of Poker
The WSOP (World Series of Poker) is one of the biggest poker tournaments in the world, so naturally it is up there with the frontrunners of televised poker. The WSOP is broadcast by ESPN, the world’s leading sports network, and typically broadcasts episodes throughout the entire schedule. The series is a must-watch for any poker fan; nowhere else will you find the variety of games (including 7-card stud and Omaha as well as Texas Hold’em) played at the highest level. The World Series typically attracts some of the greatest poker pros including Chris Moneymaker and Jonathan Duhamel.
Celebrity Poker Showdown
Celebrity Poker Showdown was a celebrity game show which was broadcast on the cable network Bravo. It ran for five seasons (with eight tournaments) and saw some of your favourite celebrities play poker. This show brought a whole new audience to the poker industry and it did wonders for its popularity. Whilst the actual poker being played wasn’t the best on the box, the humour and commentary of the hosts Phil Gordon and Dave Foley made the show a worthy watch.
NBC – National Heads-Up Poker Championship
The NBC National Heads-up Poker Championship is a televised favourite as it features a unique format which sees an invitational field of celebrities and poker pros. As such, viewers get to see their favourite poker pros battle it out against some famous athletes, actors and other well-known celebrities. This event is held annually and is broadcast by NBC. The latest 2013 tournament saw Tom Dwan, who is an exciting young aggressive poker player against the experienced Doyle Brunson, who is known as one of the greatest players of all time.
Source: 2013 NBC – National Heads-up Championship