5 Poker Shows You Need to Watch If You Aren't Already
Who would want to see mostly old white men play a card game? You might as well have televised a bridge tournament from a retirement home in Boca Raton. There have literally been thousands upon thousands of hours of poker television broadcast on every network from CBS to the Discovery Channel.
Poker was both a space filler for sports networks when major sports were going through lockouts and a tantalizing prospect for reality networks. The number of individual poker shows is almost countless. Some were really good. A great deal were not. The poker TV landscape has calmed down considerably since the boom of the early s but there are still regularly scheduled poker programs that continue to draw an audience.
Get ready for a trip down memory lane as we rank 36 poker TV shows. We tried to keep it to shows that aired at least one episode on network TV. Feel free to fire anything we missed in the comments. The show aired two seasons from It was arguably the low point of TV programming that was bankrolled by online poker sites. Not to be confused with the fictional U.
The show featured a line up of Playmates, comedians, actors and professional poker players. The show had a much more informal tone compared to the more famous Celebrity Poker Showdown. It helped that it was a cash game, with a large number of jokes and chirping between the comedians and various celebs. Founder Calvin Ayre was one of the major reasons why. The premise behind the show was 10 professionals, 10 celebrities and 20 bodog. The Bodog compound in Costa Rica was actually raided by police officers during filming.
Ace in the House on GSN was another fun poker endeavor that only made it one episode. The premise of the show was that the crew would travel to various home games in America and bring a professional table set-up complete with hole cameras, a dealer and a professional player. While most poker TV shows focus exclusively on the high-stakes tournaments held around the world the Heartland Poker Tour is all about the average poker player. Small stakes tournaments have actually exploded since about so it makes sense at least one TV show would be devoted to them.
The TV product itself is nothing to write home about but the team does a good job of capturing the final-table experience for the blue collar player. Not many people remember this but Tony G did not in fact win the tournament.
Prepon played in the game and served as executive producer. Brothers Chris and Danny Masterson were among the players who took part in the show. Phil Laak served as the host and dealer. The Professional Poker Tour billed itself as the only league in the world dedicated to professional players.
The invite-only tournament was a freeroll for the players, which was very unusual. In terms of coverage the PPT focused more on the days leading up to the final table than the WPT the feature tables were more interesting because nearly every player was a known quantity. Making it through all four quarters meant getting to the final table. A short-lived affair, the PPT began airing in and was cancelled after just one season.
Obviously the WPT crew has a lot of experience producing poker TV and Lynn Gilmartin was a nice addition as host but the actual poker proved to be slightly repetitive with a lot of the same players. Interestingly Alpha8 featured mostly new school poker players that have taken some criticism for being boring to watch. It turns out that playing perfect poker can be a tough sell.
Once again Ali Nejad serves as one of the hosts but this time around heads-up master Olivier Busquet gave him some back up. Alpha8 was never officially cancelled so we may see it return at some point if they get enough interest from pros wanting to play.
Despite the advantage the pros pretty much dominated the show winning six out of the seven episodes. More proof for poker as a skill game. Phil Gordon and Ali Nejad handled commentary duties for the show. People were justifiably upset. So how was the Epic as a TV show? It was yet another attempt at using a PGA-style format for poker where the field was made up entirely of professional players. The production value was relatively high and several high-profile online players finally got some exposure.
The concept was Esfandiari and Laak would engage in a series of prop bets around the world using their own money. The prop bets ranged from wrangling an alligator, racing sleds, lie detectors, sperm counts and many others.
The Aussie Millions also hosts an extremely large cash game that has been televised on certain occasions with heavy hitters Tom Dwan, Patrick Antonius and Gus Hansen making appearances. Face the Ace was yet another attempt at a pro vs. Face the Ace had the unfortunate distinction of being the least-viewed program among the major four networks in the p. In addition there were a number of NBC affiliates that preempted the show, likely due to concerns over broadcasting a gambling-related show in prime time.
The show only lasted one season, which consisted of seven episodes between The dialogue between Full Tilt pros and amateurs felt pretty stilted at times. The crew would film real games with real cash on the line. Players had to be OK with appearing on TV.
All the hands were real. In the pilot episode Laak and Esfandiari traveled to New Orleans and played in several high-stakes cash games in the area. Unfortunately The Discovery Channel opted not to pick up Underground Poker and it was promptly shelved. Incredibly the show operated for 10 years and helped bridge the gap between online players and TV poker.
Sky Poker pioneered a number of interesting concepts including taking online hands from viewers and analyzing them on live TV. Sky Poker gave countless UK players their first glimpse of the game. The program came to an end in The cash games take place at various casinos around the USA, usually running parallel to local tournaments. The show also puts an emphases on the characters that play poker and their lives outside of the poker room. Poker Night in America was also one of the first poker shows that gave episodes away for free two weeks after they air on CBS.
In many ways the SHRB is reminiscent of earlier shows, which makes sense because it features consummate poker producer Mori Eskandani and commentator Ali Nejad.
Poker pro Nick Schulman has also been a revelation in the booth. The tour was created by online poker operator Ladbrokes in and featured a unique at the time shoot out format where players competed in a series of heats to qualify for the final table.
The Poker Million is also noteworthy for introducing the world to frequent European poker commentator Jesse May. Negreanu would help coach contestants in the first round against celebrities including Tito Ortiz , Jayde Nicole , John Salley and others.
A sharp contrast to Face the Ace , the Million Dollar Challenge drew very strong ratings for a poker show. The Million Dollar Challenge lasted two seasons and 13 episodes. The show followed the format Celebrity Poker Showdown perfected, except with rappers instead of celebrities. The show only made it half-way through its first episode season when sponsor partypoker was forced out of the US market, thus ending the program.
The major difference in the Poker Dome was that players only had 15 seconds to act with one second extension. The other difference is that the Poker Dome featured amateur players who qualified through online freerolls or pub leagues.
It was also unusual because the players were equipped with heart monitors to get a read on how they were feeling during big hands. Matt Savage served as the TD. Both shows appeared on Fox. Once again PokerStars took the amateur against pros approach but this time it was in a cash game. The show featured frequent poker commentator Chris Rose but also included long-time poker podcasters Joe Stapleton and Scott Huff as well as Amanda Leatherman. It only lasted one season. On one hand it featured some pretty high-level cash game poker.
On the other, the games were mostly Team Full Tilt Poker pros trading their money back and forth while promoting their company. It was very difficult to know what was truly at stake considering: Most online sites paid out a TV fee for appearing on shows. Pros tend to swap a lot of action. The show ran for five seasons on Sky Poker. Current WSOP live stream commentator David Tuchman handled the play-by-play in this one with a rotating set of guests. There have been countless poker reality shows filmed but 2 Months 2 Million is one of the rare ones that actually made it to air.
Producers attempted to spice things up by encouraging the guys to go for the typical Vegas experience with clubs, booze and attractive women. G4 cancelled the show after one season but continued to feature episodes in syndication until the network itself was shuttered in The overall tone of the show, however, could be described as informal as all the players tend to hang out together, taking turns doing commentary between heats and grabbing dinner together.
Jesse May serves as the anchor for the show and is excellent as usual but the various pros who appear provide some awesome insight as well. The only unfortunate bit about the Premier League that a great deal of people in North America missed it completely. That might finally change as the show recently held the first ever North American Premier League in Montreal. It was a great format because it pitted some of the biggest names in poker against each other in 1v1 competition. Phil Hellmuth — are still remembered fondly by poker fans.