Red Hot Poker


Part of the appeal of Iron Chef was the way it brought the conventions of sports broadcasting to a cooking show. Those same conventions are now being applied to poker. World Poker Tour airs every Wednesday on The Travel Channel, and it's great, great television.

The World Poker Tour is a series of high stakes Hold 'Em tournaments created specifically for this television series, culminating in a final million dollar showdown at the Bellagio later this year. You may have watched other poker events on television, but not like this. The players sit amid a monstrous set with strobing lights and roving cameras. The table is not only lit from underneath, but built-in "hole card cams" sneak peeks at every player's cards. Viewers get to see not just the hands that get played, but those that get tossed as well-- and that makes a tremendous difference. It allows us to see into the minds of the world's greatest players, watching as they bluff, back down, or walk right into a trap. Popup Video-style factoids free the commentators to focus on insightful commentary.

This is good stuff. Peter-Bob says, "Check it out!"


I haven't seen this yet, but I was wondering if the hole cams might change the way some of these guys play. Not that it would make any difference during the game they're shooting (I have to assume great care has been taken to prevent any sort of video signal piracy-type cheating), but these guys are pros (most of 'em, anyway), and, guarenteed, the other pros are gonna watch these shows. If you can see how Phil Helmouth (spelling?), for example, plays every single hand... well... doesn't that give you a big advantage over him for next time?

Hiya. I think the format first started a year or two ago in England with their "Late Night Poker". My housemates and I got hooked on it. It got so popular that they're not showing it here in Australia. I read an article recently where the producers discussed the difficult first season. Apparently a lot of players had exactly the sort of misgivings Dave anticipates. Apparently as soon as they saw that the money was good though - and got a taste of being actually recognized as a poker star - the hot players started beating down the studio door. Now it's quite the mark of status to compete. I'm glad to see that the US has picked up the format. I suck a poker but even I love the drama of it. It sounds like the US version is a bit flashier though. The British one (as you might expect) was rather low-budget, with lots of cigarette smoke and an authentic late-night bar feel. They did the "show-the-cards-from-underneath" trick, but not on every hand. Which is nice, because it preserves a little bit of the suspense.

I think this was the direction the World Series of Poker wanted to go when they took the final table out onto Fremont Street (1997 I think). In any case, this is the direction it was meant to go as far as I'm concerned. Poker should be a great spectator sport, and now it is.

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