5 Ways to Improve Televised Poker Part 1: Commentary and Bios

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  • Published November 8th, 2012 in Poker

In the past few years we have seen televised poker overhauled, with ESPN and the World Series of Poker moving to live broadcasting, and other outlets also using the Internet to show live final-table streams. We have also seen hole-cards hidden until the conclusion of the hand (something I have long called for) giving the viewer a more “play-along” feel to the broadcast.

However, with these advancements there have also been some new issues that have reared their heads, most notably the slow, boring, pace of live poker. In this series I will look at five ways televised poker could be instantly improved, beginning with fleshing out the players’ stories and bringing more commentary to the broadcast.

Considering the amount of dead air there is when a player thinks about a difficult decision for five, sometimes 10 minutes, it seems like this should be the main focus of the commentary team and production staff. This dead air has to be filled with insightful, interesting, tidbits, or the average viewer is simply going to dismiss poker entirely.


I’ve been very pleased with the addition of a third person to the commentary team at the WSOP and I think the WPT needs to follow suit. As much chemistry as the banter between Lon McEachern and Norman Chad, or Mike Sexton and Vince Van Patten, these broadcasts are greatly enhanced with more technical voices in the booth.

In fact I’d go so far as to justify four commentators, considering the slow nature of poker. Obviously there would need to be a hierarchy, with the main duo handling most of the commentary and play-by-play, but turning to the “experts” for analysis when interesting hands or long pauses in the action occur.

Bring in an Olivier Busquet or Joe Navarro to fill the long pauses when a player is thinking; let Olivier and Antonio Esfandiari debate potential hand ranges; this could be the difference between live televised poker being the genesis of the next poker boom, or being the death of the game on television.

Player Biographies

Televised poker seems to have taken a sports approach to how they bring the players to life; that is to say that they don’t really pry into the background of these players. I’d really enjoy the broadcasts if we didn’t learn little nuggets of information about the players during the hands themselves, but saw five minute biopics on each player early in the broadcast, and then let the commentators flesh out the details of these back stories during play.

For the most part all we know about the players at a final table are we they from, how old they are, and some of their poker experience/accomplishments. It would be far more interesting to see some pre-taped interviews or back-stories on the players.


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  • Posted in: Poker
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