The popularity of poker has had exponential growth in the last few decades and with it has come more televised coverage. Most of the coverage in the beginning was massively edited to condense multiple days of play into 20 minute segments and supplied little information to the viewer, but as time goes on, the coverage starts to get more involved.
Although poker has maintained a presence on television since the late 70’s, the original coverage lacked any way to see hole cards unless a hand was played to a showdown. This led to rather bland commentary as one could only guess to each player’s holdings.
Then in 1997, was the invention that changed the way we watched poker on television forever: the hole-cam.
Henry Orenstein is successful entrepreneur toymaker and inventor that holds several U.S. based patents. He is the man who obtained the rights and ultimately convinced Hasbro to introduce Transformers to the North American market. He was also instrumental in bringing the first hole-cam to televised poker by featuring it on the British series Late Night Poker. Orenstein knew the lucrative potential this new feature would have on televised poker so he also acquired exclusive rights to detect and display hole cards during poker events.
The first time American audiences would have a chance to view his invention would be during ESPN’s coverage of the 2002 WSOP, but unfortunately it was used sparingly. It wasn’t until the following year that the hole-cam really got a chance to shine. First off, the Travel Channel would début its’ coverage of the inaugural World Poker Tour. It was well received and became its highest rated show in the network’s history. Then, just a few short months later, the phenomenon known as Chris Moneymaker emerged as the WSOP Main Event winner. That moment was largely responsible for the growth of the industry leading up until today.
The “formula” for poker event broadcasting stayed fairly constant up until 2005 but it would take five months of editing before a televised audience had a chance to witness the event. As the internet started becoming a more popular media source, ESPN knew a change in marketing strategy was needed to satisfy the demands of an eager audience. They experimented with a pay-per-view event in 2006, but without showing hole cards, it didn’t prove to be popular.
Then in 2008, we saw the creation of the November Nine. For the first time ever, the WSOP Main Event would not be completed in one sitting. Instead, they played down to the final table and took a hiatus while the editing crew got to work. Once ESPN had televised every produced segment leading up to the break, the players would reconvene and play out the rest of the final table, allowing ESPN to broadcast the results within a 24 hour window.
This year’s World Series of Poker will have by far the most intensive coverage ever seen. ESPN will have substantially more air-time devoted to WSOP and will include more than 125 hours of coverage. On top of that, WSOP.com is taking advantage of the digital age by supplying streaming coverage of every final table not shown by ESPN.
Will the growing coverage satisfy the constant demands of instant information for an audience with the world at their fingertips? Or will too much information harm the game?
Among some of the most controversial changes over previous years includes ESPN’s decision to stream more than 32 hours of WSOP event coverage with hole cards shown on a 30-minute delay timer. This may prove to be a huge disadvantage to the amateur player who runs deep as professionals will have ample time to review their play for future match-ups. Those with deep pockets could even hire a team of observers to pass on as much information as they can to their benefactor, who in turn could make adjustments to their game against particular opponents for that extra edge.