Television poker beats the odds: not dead by a long shot
Back in the dark days of the National Hockey League lockout, Canadian sports fans were introduced to something that was either the freshest thing on television or proof that the apocalypse was nigh: televised poker.
Suddenly, sports channels accustomed to showing buff athletes were now devoting hours of air time to pasty-faced gamblers. The reasons were obvious: there was nothing else available and poker was a cheap alternative to actual sports.
Once hockey returned, it was assumed that the sound of pucks ringing off the boards would quickly drown out the sounds of cards being dealt and chips being counted. But it never happened.
There's probably more poker on TV now than there was during the NHL lockout. How can that be?
``It's great entertainment," says Michael Charbon, executive producer of the team event airing on Full Tilt Poker Friday nights on The Score. ``Several years ago, everyone said poker hit its peak. Well, they were all wrong."
There's a bit of a gambling epidemic out there and poker has obviously tapped into that.
``The key is showing the hole cards," Charbon says. ``As soon as you can engage people at home to play along, you've got them hooked."
In addition, some of its players have become stars and have created a following.
As for being cheap, there are no big rights fees but producing a poker show can be more expensive than you'd think.
Charbon is using 15 cameras for the team poker series, which is more than conventional networks use for a football game. Granted, the cameras are all focused on one table and don't require camera operators, but it's still an elaborate set-up.
Charbon's show uses 11 under-table cameras to show the cards and even employs a steadi-cam, a device used mainly in movies and TV dramas.
``I put our production values against anything on television," he says.
The world of sports televison certainly doesn't need more poker when there are real sports begging for coverage. But as long as people find this stuff interesting, it's going to be around.