Poker TV, it seems, has always been around, as it began being televised so early on into the life of television and the increase in popularity of live poker tournaments. This television staple has been a constant fed into people’s homes for decades, but only in the last decade or so has Poker TV become such an entertaining way to spend one’s evenings. With recent legislation changes in the United States, many people are concerned about the future of several of their favourite shows on Poker TV. One of the most popular shows, however, is in no danger of going anywhere at all– High Stakes Poker looks like it’s here to stay.
High Stakes Poker often features professional poker players that can be seen on other Poker TV shows, so there is a large amount of overlap in the players in, for instance, Poker After Dark and High Stakes Poker. Some of the players who have played on both shows include Doyle Brunson, Phil Ivey, Chris Ferguson, David Benyamine, Daniel Negreanu, Phil Laak, Jennifer Harman, Mike Matusow, and Patrik Antonius.
While there is no shortage of other programs that rely largely on poker celebrity talent to draw in audiences, High Stakes Poker has always set itself apart (and not just by having high stakes, as the name suggests). Almost all other Poker TV regulars televise tournament style games, but High Stakes Poker shows a high stakes cash game instead, and in this game, the chips represent the amount of money for which the players have bought in. The stakes are, in fact, incredibly high, ranging from buy-ins that started at 100,000 US dollars for the first four seasons, save for a few games in season 4 that had a buy-in of a cool half a million dollars. Season 5 saw the buy-in raised to $200,000, making it the highest buy-in amount for a full season of a television show. Because High Stakes Poker is a cash game instead of a tournament, the blinds and antes don’t change, but instead stay at $300/$600 the entire game (along with a $100 ante), although the addition of extra blinds has come into play during the fourth season.
While players are paid to play in a High Stakes Poker game, they’re in no way paid enough to counter the investment that they have to make just to play the game. The odds are quite good that all of these players would play anyway, but perhaps the money makes them more willing to be filmed for 24 hours of poker playing.
Whatever the secret formula is, High Stakes Poker is an addition to poker on television that really has no equal. What could one expect from a show that was created by Henry Orenstein, the man who responsible for the greatest invention in Poker TV history, the pocket cam? Without Orenstein’s invention, watching poker on television would be far less interesting and suspenseful, and commentators would be unable to fully analyze the action on the table until it was all said and done; it’s no wonder that High Stakes Poker is so successful, given that it’s another of Orenstein’s brainchildren.
High Stakes Poker experienced a little turmoil, as even the best and most stable shows are subject to the whims of the poker industry. When PokerStars.com became the official sponsor of the show in season seven, many Full Tilt pros did not participate, due to a boycott. When PokerStars pulled out of the US market only months later, poker lovers feared the worst, and, in fact, the Game Show Network, which produces the show, said that they would have to reduce the number of shows that were aired. PokerStars was accused of bank fraud, money laundering, and illegal gambling by the US government in a case called United States v. Scheinberg et al., and many other shows and scheduled televised poker events were pulled entirely from the lineup. GSN is still airing the current episodes of High Stakes Poker, and there is no doubt that a show with this many fans and players (some of whom have bankrolls that would make your head spin) will find other sponsors.
High Stakes Poker has one of the largest (if not the largest) lists of professional poker players who have been on the show. Players who have been on all seven seasons of High Stakes Poker (all seasons to date) include Doyle Brunson, Antonio Esfandiari, Barry Greenstein, and Daniel Negreanu. Several other players have become regulars on the show, however, having only missed one or two seasons, such as Eli Elezra, Patrik Antonius, David Benyamine, Phil Laak, and Mike Matusow.
In addition to being home of some of the biggest names in poker playing, High Stakes Poker has also made quite a name for itself by having some spectacular hands played on air. During Season 3, Phil Ivey was up against Brad Booth– Ivey held pocket kings and Booth held [4s][2s]. When Ivey raised after the flop (useless to both of them), Booth raised almost $250,000, and Ivey folded, despite having a much stronger hand. Ivey would make this fatal error again in Season 6 against Tom Dwan, who held [8s][9s] while Ivey had [ad][6d]. Dwan raised preflop, after the flop ([td][qc][kd]), and after the turn ([3s]), and Ivey called each time. After the river ([6c]), it was Dwan that raised over $250,000, and after over ten minutes on contemplation, Ivey once again folded, despite having the stronger hand in both instances.
Daniel Negreanu experienced some bad luck to rival Ivey’s, however. During the second season, Negreanu held [6s][6h] to Gus Hansen’s [5d][5c]. Hansen raised preflop, and Negreanu re-raised. When the flop came down [9c][6d][5h], Negreanu was eager to bet, and Hansen raised. After the turn ([5s]), Hansen was almost a shoe-in for the win, because although Negreanu held a full house (sixes over fives), Hansen now had four of a kind. Hansen bet and Negreanu called. After the river ([8s]), Negreanu bet and Hansen went all in. Negreanu, thinking his full house unbeatable, called, only to lose the $575,700 pot to Hansen.
Given the ruthlessness of the players and the stakes of the games, High Stakes Poker is one of the greatest shows currently on television. Players and fans will have to wait to see what the future will bring to Poker TV, but it seems like High Stakes Poker will be around for quite some time.