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The World Poker Tour is the best show about poker currently on television. I
will sit mesmerized at the screen every week for 2 hours watching the pros
and learning some tricks. Also it's not like baseball or football where you
feel you must know every player to understand the game. That's because even
the top players don't always make it to the final table. So every week you
learn someone new. The WPT is even a place where amateurs can flourish (Win
an inexpensive satellite tournament and you can take on the likes of Phil
Hellmuth, Vinny Vinh, Hoyt Corkins or Annie Duke in the main tournament).
The show is hosted by poker pro Mike Sexton and Vince Van Patten, who has dubbed himself king of the hollywood home game. The two have different styles of announcing. Sexton gives a no-nonsense view on the players and will even teach you some of the lingo. Patten, on the other hand, takes a Vince McMahon approach to announcing. He wants you to believe that every word he says in crucial. The two even have their own different style on playing the game. The other host, Shana Hiatt, really isn't a poker pro either. Her job is basically to look pretty in the skits she is in & interview players (This is where she falls back on her "Wild On" experience to get her through).
The players themselves are quite characters. They each come with their own customs: Phil Hellmuth throws temper tantrums, Hoyt Corkins dresses in black and wears reflected sunglasses, Annie Duke depends on psychology to win, Vinnie Vinh is full of charisma, and the rookies all want to steal a huge pot away from the pros. It's quite exciting.
Before I discovered Texas Hold 'Em (which is what is played on the show), I played draw and stud poker for 10 years. But I have found my niche with hold 'em. There are more chances make better hands (I can't tell you how many times I have made four of a kind), and I have rack up so much money in play chips (I have yet to play for real money). I also play pretty well in online tournaments (I can usually make it into the top 100 and my highest finish is 12th place). WPT is responsible for my obsessive habit with hold 'em. I love the show and the game. DEAL ME IN!!!
The World Poker Tour is more than just a television show. It has become a
cultural phenomenon. Not only is it hugely popular for the Travel
it has transformed the game itself. Thanks to the World Poker Tour and
of its internet-cardroom sponsors, poker has gone from a strange pursuit
middle-aged white guys in a smoke-filled corner of a casino that would
rather use the space for more slot machines, to a passion for thousands of
players of all ages and backgrounds. The show has already spawned other
similar shows, including Celebrity Poker Showdown and the World Series of
Blackjack. ESPN has been covering the World Series of Poker for years,
they have increased their coverage from a single show to a series, and
been hugely successful with it as well.
But what is the show like? Well, the production standards are high, and you can tell that having a tournament televised is a big deal to the tournament organizers. The producers do a good job in backgrounding the players, which is important since most of these people are not known by the public. And the Hole Card Cam is tremendously beneficial, since it allows viewers to see what the players are doing as they are doing it, instead of waiting until the cards are turned over. I've watched poker coverage without this advantage, and it is about as interesting as C-SPAN in Spanish.
The commentary is mixed. Mike Sexton does a terrific job explaining the players' moves, and isn't afraid to say when he thinks that someone made a bad one. But "Hollywood Home Gamer" Vince Van Patten seems to me more about generating excitement than about anything resembling analysis. Former Coppertone model and host of "Wild On" Shana Hiatt is not exactly a poker pro either. But in her case, it is much more forgivable, since her role has more to do with interviewing players and presenting the casino to viewers than any kind of hard-core analysis. Plus, she's a breath of fresh air in a sport that is still dominated by middle-aged men who, well, let's say they could use some more time in the hotel exercise room.
All in all, the World Poker Tour is imperfect, but still one of the best things on television. It is a must-see for fans of card games, but be careful. Once you watch for the first time, it could very well become a permanent part of your Wednesday nights.
This program is addictive on a couple levels. I know of more than a few people who have braved the confines of many a smoke-filled casino wanting to know if they, themselves, have the "nuts" for this game. Many come away totally hooked on the zen of no-limit Texas hold 'em. Secondly, its just good television! ESPN has their annual Reader's Digest round up of Binion's World Series of Poker. WPT is just a better show. The pacing, the commentary (by pro player Mike Sexton and 70's pretty-boy Vince VanPatten), the drama...2 hours a week pretty much fly by. I'd do well to mention some of the luminaries that have appeared more than once on the tour; there's hometown guys like Andy Bloch and Phil Ivey, flashy dressers like Paul Darden and "Devilfish" Ulliot, and self-described masters and prickly professors like Phil Hellmuth and Howard Lederer. Regardless of what you may think of their conduct and tactics, it's a gas to watch them play. I'm forgetting Scotty Nguyen and Men the Master...too many to mention here. The program itself is heavily edited, condensing marathon tournaments into 2 hrs of highlights. It runs on the Travel Channel, but if your idea of travel isn't sitting on your assets for 5 hours at a time, or watching other guys do it, this may no be your glass of bourbon. The only traveling these guys are doing is between the Bicycle and Commerce Casino. But sometimes ya just GOTTA go "All In!"
For a number of years, I've traveled to southern California, on
business and to visit my best friend, who lives in La Habra. I've
played poker in the Bicycle and Commerce facilities, perhaps the two
prime poker establishments anywhere, as well as in Palm Springs area.
I'm skilled enough to do O.K. in games with, say, $15/$30 limits and in some of the regular in-house tournaments which cost in the range of $100 to play. More importantly, I'm good enough a player and smart enough to know I don't belong at the table with the guys and gals in this series, or in the high-stakes games they play on a day-to-day basis.
There are occasional rank amateurs who make these final tables, and also occasionally do well at them. But this is pretty much like someone winning a lottery - lucky at the right time, against great odds.
For most of us who enjoy playing the game, it's like a fairly good, say, college baseball player watching the major leaguers - you can appreciate and understand what they do, and how they do it, even though your talents for the game are lesser.
There are a number of other presentations since this program brought the weekly contests to the air several years ago now. Mike Sexton is an outstanding commentator and a leading professional, and Vince Patton, a competent amateur who provides a "show biz" touch, but not overdone.. They work well together, and I feel they provide a proper balance of comment, criticism and humor, and do not feel they have to be talking non-stop, as so many commentators do in many sports and game presentations.
The players, most of whom have their skill for the game in common, otherwise present an interesting variety of sizes, shapes, ages and personalities - and the quality of production of the programs, and the variety of venues add well to viewer interest.
All told, an excellent presentation for those of us interested in poker. And the interest and participation in Texas Hold'em now probably exceeds all other poker variations combined. Going back a relatively few years, to older books on poker, this game would be little-mentioned, or completely omitted; 7-card stud and draw were the main staple. This show alone put it well-ahead of all others, and along with its imitators, this will undoubtedly remain true in the foreseeable future.
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