Poker has gone through different eras from its inception in the 18th century till now. And with these eras came varying levels of acceptance and popularity. Yet, the most significant period for the poker game is arguably between 2003 and 2006.
Referred to by most as the “poker boom,” this period led to the widespread popularity of poker globally. Many more people were interested in the game, and the online poker player pool doubled annually.
Today, poker games, especially online variations, have continued to benefit from this era. Players from different locations are exposed to numerous online poker platforms. Players seeking to win real money from the game can explore top poker websites from Top10pokersites.net.
Evidently, the poker boom was instrumental to how the game is viewed now. But what exactly was the cause of this boom?
Bringing Poker to the Big Screen
While the poker boom spanned through the better part of the mid-2000s, it started in the late 1990s. In 1998, the Rounders movie was released and became the first to reference Texas Hold ’em significantly.
The movie tells a simple story of a guy trying to become a professional player and change his luck in Vegas. It features a young Matt Damon and takes the form of a beginners’ course on how to play Hold’em.
Prior to 1998, other movies referenced the poker game; however, not as much as the Rounders movie. The film was so big that it influenced how the industry presented poker in movies. Today, most of the best poker-related movies were released after the Rounders movie. Some other films with the best poker references include;
- The Cincinnati Kid (1965)
- Deal (2008)
- Lucky You (2007)
- High Roller: The Stu Ungar Story (2003)
- Molly’s Game (2017)
- California Split (1974)
- All In: The Poker Movie (2009)
- The Grand (2007)
- Maverick (1994)
- Casino Royale (2006)
Around the time of the Rounders release, Planet Poker also introduced online poker. Evidently, this also made massive contributions to the poker boom. Online poker events thrived on the occasional broadcast of WSOP Main Events and other tournaments.
The reputation of online poker was further cemented in 2003 when amateur player Chris Moneymaker won the WSOP Main Event. Moneymaker gained access to the tournament through PokerStars online poker room and became one of 839 entrants in the event.
By 2004, the number of entrants more than tripled, with online players picking up interest. The last year of the poker boom saw 8773 players compete in the WSOP Main Event. And while the Unlawful Gambling Act of 2006 led to its decline, its impact and awareness would continue till now.
The late 1990s laid a significant foundation for the poker boom. However, some have also attributed live transmissions of poker tournaments as a critical factor. The NHL lockout of 2004-05 and subsequent airtime of poker programming have influenced the poker boom.
Live Transmissions Of Poker Tournaments
The World Series Of Poker (WSOP) Main Event was a significant player in poker live transmissions. However, it was not always robust, as viewers could not visually follow players’ progress through their cards. The coverage instead had commentators guess what cards players had.
The introduction of “hole cam” in Europe changed this in 1997 as audiences could see players’ hidden cards. Initially used in the Late Night Poker series, the hole cam was also introduced in the Poker Million tournament of 2000. The Poker Million tournament became the first live transmitted poker game with a pot of £1,000,000. In North America, the Discovery Network televised 1999, 2000, and 2001 WSOP events as one-hour documentaries.
World Poker Tour (WPT)
Steven Lipscomb remains a significant pioneer for modern poker live transmission. Having recognized the potential for poker transmissions, Lipscomb paired up with poker enthusiasts Mike Sexton and Linda Johnson to create the World Poker Tour. They secured funding, and WPT became the first organized and televised tour of poker tournaments globally.
The WPT format featured a hole cam, interactive graphics, and live sports feel. All these ensured viewers were thrown into the thick of the action, making the show an instant success. Following its premiere on March 30, 2003, till now, WPT has remained the highest-rated show on the Travel Channel network.
Throughout the early 2000s, WTP was a hot competition for the WSOP tournament. These events increased interest in live poker tournaments and the game in general. The 2004-05 NHL lockout also allowed poker to gain popularity in other parts of North America. Networks in Canada had to replace NHL shows with live poker transmissions.
The World Poker Tour and hole cam feature popularized poker across North America and Europe. Initially, poker was only transmitted on sports networks such as ESPN and Sky Sports. However, the game has stretched to non-sporting networks. Some new networks are also dedicated to live poker transmissions. All networks employ a similar format – hole cam, television pattern, and commentators.
However, in recent years, televised poker has witnessed a decline, especially following the 2011 Scheinberg lawsuit. Most poker tournaments are transmitted on subscription-based streaming platforms. These platforms, such as PokerGO, televise tournaments and documentaries.
Current Poker Television Programs
Across North America, there are still several televised poker shows. A rundown of some still currently televised include;
- World Series Of Poker: PokerGO and CBS Sports
- World Poker Tour: Fox Sports Net
- European Poker Tour: Sportsnet Canada
- Ultimate Poker Challenge: Syndication
- High Stakes Poker: PokerGO
- National Heads-Up Poker Championship: NBC
- Heartland Poker Tour: Syndication
- Poker Night in America: CBS Sports Network
- PokerGO Cup: PokerGO
- U.S. Poker Open: PokerGO
- Poker Masters: PokerGO
Europe is also not left behind in televised poker games. Some popular European poker television shows include;
- Late Night Poker: Fox Sports Net
- Poker Million: Sky Sports
- Celebrity Poker Club: Challenge UK
- Victor Chandler Poker Cup: Sky Sports
- British Poker Open: PokerGO
- Late Night Poker Ace: Channel 4 UK
- World Speed Poker Open: The Poker Channel
- PartyPoker.com Football and Poker Legends Cup: Five UK
- Poker mania: Italia 1
- Poker Nations Cup: Channel 4 UK
The internet has been touted as the most prominent driving force regarding poker popularity. However, television has also played a significant part, from movies to TV shows and live transmissions. While this aspect might be on the decline, poker would not be what it is today without television input.