In the 1980s, poker on TV remained unchanged. CBS aired normal WSOP programming but with no hole cards shown. The show moved from CBS to ESPN. Overall, what began in the 1970s lasted through the 1980s into the 1990s.
In the 1990s, WSOP bracelet winner Henry Orenstein patented the first hole card cameras. It was initially shown on the British poker program Late Night Poker when spectators could see each player’s cards. Since the audience had better access to the game, informal comments gave way to more critical analysis. With more knowledge of the game came more personalities depending on their play style.
Orenstein paved the way for a new age of TV poker, Steve Lipscomb co-founded the World Poker Tour with Mike Sexton and Linda Johnson. The programs’ Hollywood production level made hole card cameras their natural habitat. Each show included a TV, Mike Sexton, and Vince van Patten’s comments, and life-altering sums of money. This change from fringe TV programs to mainstream spectacle aided poker’s rise in popularity. Following the WPT’s success, the WSOP increased its investment in show production, progressively covering additional tournaments.
Production expenses are considerable, and data is instantaneous. The European Poker Tour now offers live web streaming of the greatest poker events. These broadcasts are complemented by “made for TV” events like PokerStars’ Shark Cage. These events are designed for TV viewers and provide a $1 million top prize. That implies an audition procedure for prospective players, a 30-second time restriction on the action, and a bluff penalty that sends a player to the shark cage if deceived on the river. If you compare the early days of poker on TV to today’s shows like Shark Cage, you’ll see some huge changes. Poker on TV has developed from grainy clips to full HD broadcasts with interactive components and expert analysis.