The World Poker Tour made its debut on the Travel channel on March 30, 2003. It quickly became the highest rated show on the Travel Channel. The show lit the fuse that sparked the Poker Explosion Worldwide. The utilization of the hole card camera suddenly transformed poker into a spectators sport making it the ultimate reality show for television. Knowing what cards the players hold as the hand progresses adds to the excitement of the show. You can see who is bluffing, and who is leading all the way to the showdown. This leaves many people wondering if watching poker without seeing the hole cards could ever be as exciting. Legendary Casino owner Benny Binion knew the answer to that question years ago was Yes!
In 1949 Benny Binion was approached by gambler Nicholas Dandolas who asked Binion if he could set up a marathon poker match for a high stakes contest. Binion set up the match with legendary poker player Johnny Moss with the agreement that it would be played where the public could view it. They played for five straight months taking breaks only to sleep. The public would gather each day to watch the two play every form of poker. The match took on all the proportions of a major sporting event. They loved it.
When I attended the taping of the World Poker Tour I got that same feeling of excitement that I imagine those spectators in 1949 had. It was a completely different feeling than you get just watching the two hour edited broadcast in your living room on Wednesday night. I spent about seven hours at the World Poker Tour taping.
When I arrived at Foxwoods at 2:30pm to find there was a book signing taking place with six of the authors who were scheduled to play the following day in a special WPT poker By the Book tournament. The crowd was huge and people were busy collecting autographs and buying books, and WPT apparel.
I entered the Ballroom at 3:30. The stage was surrounded on three sides with bleachers. This would allow for 240 spectators. On the fourth side was the announcers table where Mike Sexton and Vince Van Patton sit to give their commentary. There were TV monitors set up around the room so players could watch what was being taped. The players were seated at the Poker table in the center of the stage where they were receiving final instructions.
After the instructions the players left the stage and at 3:40 the audience entered the ballroom and started taking their seats. At 4:05 they showed promos on the monitors and then took camera shots of the audience and had everyone clapping and yelling so they could adjust the microphone levels that would be used to capture the audience reaction during the tournament. The players were introduced to the audience at 4:20 and took their seats at the table.Tournament Director Mike Ward said Shuffle up and deal at 4:25 and the tournament taping was underway.
I wont go into an specifics about which position players were eliminated or who won the tournament. I dont want to spoil it for anyone but I will talk about some of the events that took place so you can get a feeling of the time involved. I kept track of every hand so I could compare it to the ones shown when the event airs on the Travel Channel.
The action started very slow. The blinds were 15,000/30,000. One player would raise and the others would fold. We did not see a flop until hand number six. Then three hands later there was an all in and the first player was eliminated.
In the next 12 hands we saw only 3 flops. After hand 21 the round was over and there was a five minute break as they raced off the smaller denomination chips. The next level began with blinds at 20,000/40,000. On the first hand of the new level the second player was eliminated. Three hands later on hand 25 the third player went out.
Over the next 30 hands we saw 13 flops. Finally on hand 55 the fourth player was eliminated and the tournament was down to heads up. It was 7:30 pm just about three hours after the first hand was dealt. The heads up sparing went back and fourth for another 21 hands. Finally at 8:50 pm on hand number 76 a new WPT millionaire was made after collecting the $1,549,588 first prize.
It was very interesting attending a taping of the World Poker Tour and I would disagree with anyone who says watching a live tournament without seeing the hole cards is boring. If you get a chance I recommend you attend one and see for yourself.
Until Next time remember:
Luck comes and goes.....Knowledge Stays Forever.