Poker television shows have been aired in North America & Europe from the late 1970’s. These shows have been very popular with the viewership increasing every year. During the poker boom between 2003 & 2006, these shows gained maximum popularity. Below is a chronological timeline of various poker shows aired on television.
In the United States, CBS started airing the final table of the World Series of Poker (WSOP) Main Event as an annual one hour show which was later broadcasted by ESPN. For many years, the coverage was less popular because viewers at home could not see what cards the players had. Instead, the coverage essentially involved the commentators guessing what cards the players had in a documentary style production.
The hole cam, the advance camera which allows audiences to see the hidden cards that players held in their hands, was introduced in Europe. The hole cam was first used in the “Late Night Poker” television series. In the US, the 1999, 2000 and 2001 WSOP events were only broadcasted in one hour documentaries on the Discovery Networks.
Documentary filmmaker Steven Lipscomb produced and directed a documentary on the WSOP for the Discovery Channel. It was the first U.S. poker production funded entirely by a television network rather than a casino.
Lakes Entertainment, company owned by avid poker player Lyle Berman, agreed to fund the World Poker Tour, the first organized and televised tour of poker tournaments in the world. The World Poker Tour does not offer general coverage of the multi-day poker tournaments. Instead, the WPT covers only the action at the final table of each event.
WPT filmed its first episode at Bellagio in Las Vegas. Wanting to create a compelling, action-packed show, WPT took eight months to edit the first WPT episode. ESPN, who resumed their coverage of the WSOP in 2002, featured pocket cam technology in their return broadcast.
The first WPT episode aired on March 30, 2003 on the Travel Channel and became an instant success. It was also the highest rated show in television history.
After the early boom popular poker television programs have steadily taken a back seat with the shows losing their audience. Presently, ESPN has the contract of broadcasting WSOP events till 2017.