As we continue breaking down poker’s public image, we have to look at why that image is better today than it was 20, 30, or more years ago. The reason is largely credited to the fact that poker has joined the ranks of the sporting world covered by ESPN. This four-letter acronym might as well be a four-letter word followed by an exclamation point for the vital role it has played. The cable giant that began as a quirky basketball satellite channel in the late 70s before most people knew what cable was, let alone satellite dish technology, now holds the Midas touch for legitimizing any activity that can be considered under the broadest sense of the word ‘sport’.
ESPN’s coverage of the 2003 World Series of Poker showed the world that poker was not just something to do in smoky casino card rooms. ‘Lipstick’ cameras were used to show the hole cards which piqued the interest of viewers who now watched, with inside information, as each hand with all its strategy played out. The game itself, Texas Hold ‘Em, was new to most viewers and further engaged the new audience who took on the challenge of learning about blinds, flops, turns, and rivers with less concern of negative social stigmas now that this game was on prime time TV. Viewers could also associate with amateur winners like online gamer Chris Moneymaker who showed us, as he raked in a massive amount of poker chips, that you could strike it rich with a relatively small investment. ESPN expanded poker’s popularity beyond the casino into home game rooms and drew in couples as well, which broke through the traditional guys card night for couples now seeking to host tournaments and cash games with friends, neighbors, coworkers, and charitable foundations. Commercials for online poker sites aired during WSOP broadcasts further fueled the budding online poker phenomenon.
Admittedly poker, and in particular Texas Hold ‘Em, was becoming more popular before ESPN made its big splash, as evidenced on the big screen with the 1998 hit Rounders. However, ESPN changed poker in a very fundamental way. Just as Harley Davidson expanded its market beyond Hell’s Angels biker gangs to working stiffs who wanted to pretend to be bad boys and girls on the weekends, ESPN made poker cool and accessible to everyone. At the height of the ESPN-sparked poker renaissance was the 2006 update of the James Bond classic Casino Royale which supplanted the original game of baccarat with Texas Hold ‘Em in what has become the consummate positive poker image still referenced today.
So with these recent positive events in poker’s history, why do some still seek to vilify it? Find out next as we explore what makes America different from the rest of the poker world.
It’s funny how the game of poker is portrayed in America and around the world. My last blog entry reported on gambling law changes in New York and how it was viewed by advocates as a positive revenue and job creation engine that kept dollars in state, but was viewed by opponents as an invitation to chronic gambling addiction and impending moral ruin. At the heart of any debate over state gambling laws, whether it be allowing home games or establishing casinos, is the role of politics which feeds directly off public opinion. So is poker’s image mostly good or bad? From what I’ve seen, poker has two distinct faces.
Make no mistake about it, gambling overall has a bad reputation which, in turn, has sullied poker’s good name. Wild west card cheaters, the 1919 Chicago White Sox World series fix, underground sports bookies, pool hall hustlers and organized crime are just some of the examples of negative gambling hiding out in our sub-conscience. Gambling has few if any boundaries and can take many forms, from throwing dice to betting on elections. Indeed, gambling’s promise of instant fortune has created bad stereotypes which have placed a heavy burden on poker.
Contrast this image with James Bond matching wits against the best poker players in the world. Set inside a gilded casino where luxury drapes every premium detail. His breathtaking companion holds as much mystery in her eyes as the next hand. This is not black jack vs. the house…it’s a cerebral test of player vs. player. It is the spirit of this scene that many a man cave and home game aim to recreate.
So where does poker stand in the court of public opinion today? Better than ever, but still getting a bad rap in many ways which I will explain next time.
We have posted a lot of videos about poker. We have shown ya’ll the best videos we could find about poker, from movies to television shows to videos on how to play poker. We’ve shown ya’ll great poker music videos. And we have had a lot of people email us asking for a list of the top poker movies of all time. So, because we like keeping all our poker friends and customers happy, here is a nice little video all about poker and the top ten poker movies: 10. All In – 9. Deal – 8. Casino – 7. Maverick – 6. Lucky You – 5. Croupier – 4. Shade – 3. Cincinnati Kid – 2. Rounders
and the number one poker movie of all time
1. Casino Royale – Featuring a great scene where James Bond beats the bad guy out of 115 million of his authentic casino poker chips. Classic bad beat.