I've never mentioned in this blog too directly the excessive influx of
televised poker, other than to say it is a major contributing factor
to the "boom". I of course watch most televised poker shows (save
Celebrity Poker, which is basically unwatchable), and
find myself looking to playing online while watching to avoid the
boredom. Televised 55/45 "crooked coin flips" for rungs in a
tournament prize pool ladder isn't exciting after the first few
Indeed, late tournament play (should you have nothing on the line
yourself) is exciting only if randomness excites you. Sweating draw
and redraw with all the chips in middle and cards face-up doesn't
entertain anymore once one gets serious about poker. And, frankly,
the playing part -- wondering how John Juanda can read people so well
preflop and put them on AK so he can call with 77 -- doesn't stay
interesting after the twentieth time.
Poker has a lot more to it than figuring out whether the opponent on
the first betting round has "the pair" or "the overcards". World
Poker Tour forgot that as its seasons progressed. ESPN does better
with its WSoP airings, but even they seem to focus more and more on
final tables and high-blind play.
This is why I was elated when Card
Player ran a piece about High Stakes Poker on
GSN. This was touted to be real cash game poker for television.
This would show, (albeit at the highest of stakes) the games that
run every day in every casino and online card room. It would be NL
HE, where the blinds don't go up and people play for as long as
they'd like, buy-in when and for how much they like, and battle all
I was so excited, in fact, that I was worried I'd over-hyped in my own
mind, and had set myself up for disappointment. I am elated, having
just tonight watched the second episode, to see that this show is all
I hoped it would be.
As I watched my recorded copy, my wife looked up at the screen briefly
to see the left-hand side of the screen full of information, showing
many players hands. "Wow,", she said, "so many hands?!" She's used
to seeing the (usually) heads-up-to-the-flop tournament poker I
usually watch. I excitedly replied, "yes, these are the games I play
in all the time. Seven people to the flop with that variety of hands.
This is 'real poker'".
Now, that's not to say tournament poker isn't "real poker". But,
around the world each day, there is much more cash game action than
there is tournament action. Plus, the true "interesting play" comes
up in the cash games. This is when there is no "pressure to play",
unless the psychological situation dictates it. You don't have to
play to stay alive; you don't fear being "blinded out". You can
sit, play and think through the situation and decide when your time
is right. Tournament poker, please recall, is an artificial
imposition invented specifically to make a poker game where
a single winner could be declared. Generally, poker, like life, is
more complex and colorful than that. Many people win, and many
people lose, and some "lose" and still "win".
I really think all this comes through in High Stakes Poker.
( I go on to say why, but minor spoilers are included for the
first two episodes, so you have to click through to see the full
These priceless moments of cash game NL poker are what is interesting to
watch; it's what entertains me in my daily games when I'm not in a
hand, and it's even better to watch the pros do it. We can see a
wealth of plays and complex situations that come up when there are
deep stacks behind the players and lots of time to play. This is
the real experience of poker. I am so glad that there is now a
poker TV show where I can see situations that I've truly been in
(well, that is, if I move the decimal point two places to the left
I wonder if the subtle points of this will be lost on the "average TV
poker fan", who probably doesn't know all that much about the game.
I'd love to hear comments from both serious players and the casually
interested to see how this show is hitting people. I absolutely
love it and will likely truly enjoy seeing each episodes multiple
times. I would love to see this thing last at least a few seasons;
I'd hand in four tourney shows to keep this one cash game show on the
air, that's for sure!