Thoughts on TV Poker

Over the years as a poker player I’ve naturally been drawn in to watching the World Series of Poker, World Poker Tour and other tournaments on TV. I’m really not a big fan of the way poker is televised, but I can’t really think of a much better way to do it.

One problem is the way that the content is edited, which makes it become more like a drama with regular characters and exaggerated suspense. It would obviously be boring and likely terrible for ratings if the play was broadcast live, but delaying it for weeks after the fact makes it comparable to a cheesy reality show where any serious viewers already know the outcome. I know they need time to make edits and build up the “drama,” but I never really buy into all of that.

And if I hear one more WSOP poker hand analyzed according to the way Norman Chad was treated by one of his ex-wives, I think I might lose it.

I guess they’ve broadcast the WSOP final table and other big events live on a pay-per-view event, but I’ve never tried that. I don’t even know if I would find it exciting. I did watch a less important tournament live once, and while I thought it was a little better than the typical shows, I didn’t find it incredibly exciting. If I was going to watch poker as it is actually played, I might as well just sit in online so I can get information that will actually help me as a player.

I think at least having a top pro color commentator to give some actual worthwhile commentary on the strategy would be a good start. I guess they’ve tried this a few times, but it seems that no crew really tells viewers what the players are trying to do with their actions, and ESPN is definitely horrible in this regard. Before the unveiling of the hole card camera, TV poker events were extremely boring, but at least the commentators had to rationalize why they thought the players might be making certain moves. That type of analysis is almost completely lost today in favor of unrelated one-liners and comments about the players’ personal lives.

The most interesting way to follow the action for me is probably just reading the news updates on the WSOP website. (with the accompaniment of pictures from various blogs.) Poker might just be a sport that doesn’t lend itself to TV effectively.

By that, of course, I mean for viewers who actually play; as a dramatic reality-type show for non-players, I’d imagine that it is working quite well.

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