How Black Friday Helped Save Poker on TV
The aftermath of Black Friday helped bring on the demise of several formerly successful televised poker shows.
On the surface, it seems like a step back for poker.
Poker Junkie blogger Compncards sees a silver lining, however, and explaine why he's happy with the collapse of poker television in America.
So Long, Farewell and Thank Goodness
One of the "negative outcomes" of Black Friday was the demise of several televised poker programs in the United States.
In many cases, the cancellations could not have come soon enough.
Many of the programs started off as novel concepts, especially shows like High Stakes Poker.
I was a huge fan of HSP until about the last season and a half. The final season was just dreadful to watch both in commentary and poker play.
Other programs had little to really offer outside of the "personalities" featured.
Poker After Dark degenerated into mostly cash-game shows and I won't even get started about the Daniel Negreanu showcase program.
A lot of programs became stale or tried to move too far away from what worked.
Moving to almost strictly a cash-game format on Poker After Dark made it unwatchable for many.
The addition of Omaha was a nice touch, but only the fans of the game seemed to tuned in.
In the end, there seemed to be way too many programs as well. For example, I can think of about three programs that I never got to watch a single episode of.
There is a pretty solid chance that the collapse of certain shows would have happened eventually without Black Friday, but thankfully some got put out of their misery early.
World Series of Poker on Shaky Ground
The World Series of Poker is really on shaky ground. Its edited programs drew abysmal numbers according to sources and about the only saving grace was the live broadcasts.
Unfortunately, many casual fans started turning the channel after a short time because live poker coverage without hole cards in real-time is not very exciting.
When the WSOP first started broadcasting, it covered numerous events and different variants of poker. Now, you get a couple "made for TV" events and the Main Event.
One change that I would propose would be to have a crew on standby at the WSOP and ready to produce a final table should a strong table arise.
If two big names make a final with a decent shot to win, consider taping it.
Cut back on some of the overkill coverage of the Main Event and devote some time to other stories and other games.
Just because poker players do not understand all the games does not mean that they don't want to see the Phil Iveys of the world win a bracelet in HORSE or some non-Hold'em event.
World Poker Tour Continues To Draw
Year after year, the World Poker Tour continues to draw solid numbers and draw fans to the table.
Why is that?
The answer is that it continually works on the product. It also helps that WPT final tables are almost always very strong.
Also, like them or hate them, the Royal Flush girls are getting people to tune in.
The old "hey look, we have hot chicks" gimmick still works.
Say what you want about female equality in poker, but men (and some women) want to see scantily clad hot women.
What Can Future Programs Do?
Poker shows in the future need to pay attention to several factors.
1) Start with an idea that evolves and bring something new and unique to fans regularly
Finding the right balance of drawing casual fans but not making it boring for serious poker players will be the trick.
2) Hire commentators that know what they're talking about
Comedians, non-poker celebrities and the like are a nice occasional novelty, but they do not make great commentators.
Olivier Busquet drew a nice following during the Main Event and would be a great choice. Antonio Esfandiari did a great job during the final table.
Many will disagree, but I like Phil Hellmuth on commentary and Daniel Negreanu would make a fantastic color man.
3) Consider unique niches
Look at the Heartland Poker Tour. It found a niche originally in the Midwest market and ran with it.
The NBC National Heads-Up Championship did the same with heads-up poker.
Future producers should consider various niches in the game and consider catering programs towards one of those niches.
Find the right one and you may have a runaway hit - or at least a solid ratings performer.
4) Don't discount gimmicks
The World Poker Tour used the Royal Flush Girls gimmick to perfection.
Other gimmicks will just as certainly draw fans into the game.