The PartyPoker Big Game IV to Change TV Poker?

Taken from my UK Pokernews column
I am fortunate enough to be going to the 48 hour PartyPoker Big Game IV this month in London where amongst other things I will witness two lucky Pokernews qualifiers play in the event thanks to our $20,000 freeroll this Saturday. As excited as I was, I didn’t think much of the event right away just because I was familiar with it from the previous series on Channel 5, but recent news has made me start to think this could actually be one of the biggest events in TV poker for quite some time.
And I am not talking about the potential ‘unmasking’ of Isildur1, which in itself will be a pretty huge story in the history of online poker. Yesterday morning, when looking at the day’s news, I had to wade through a ton of ‘Isildur1 is actually.......’ stories yesterday, all of which were April Fools pranks and having once fallen for and reporting one about David Beckham playing in the World Series of Poker, my bullshit detector managed to save the day and spare my blushes.
But I actually think the bigger story could end up being some of the new additions to the format of the show. Most notably, to me, the inclusion of entrance and exit music which will be voted for by Pokernews readers. Matchroom Sport are responsible for some big innovations in TV sport and revitalising old formats, this inclusion reminds me of what they have done with Darts. You would never think a game like Darts could get such a legitimate ‘razzamatazz’ injection like it has, but Matchroom have pulled it off. Darts is now far from a pub game, it’s a night out, a spectacle and it has made stars out of its players.
Darts players are now ‘characters’ and this is a prevailing theme in the Matchroom legacy. Barry Hearn almost single handedly turned Snooker into a monster of UK sport in the 1980s by giving the players nicknames, characters and back stories and they did the same with Darts. They have also done something similar with the innovative Prizefighter format in Boxing, another sport that needed a push back in the right direction.
And you can see it happening now in poker. The PartyPoker Premier League is the best example of this to date, seeing the same players week in week out allows the audience to attribute personalities to them (As if the likes of Phil Hellmuth and Tony G needed any help) and gives people players to boo and cheer on. This new inclusion of entrance music and evictions adds a whole new dimension of audience participation, when previously our experience had almost been that of an intrusive voyeur.
Will it work? Possibly, possibly not, I haven’t decided yet but it’s a push in the right direction. There are players for whom it will fit perfectly – Fullflush, Tony G, Sammy George, Phil Hellmuth, Roland De Wolfe – the larger than life characters that should be walking round with their own theme music anyway. I cant see quiet men like Phil Ivey ever wanting to be part of anything like this and many poker purists will turn their nose up at it, but what serious poker players often forget is that it is exactly stuff like this that gets the new players interested in the game, depositing online, playing in the pubs and venturing into the casino.
Outside of the showbiz it will still be as fascinating and subtle a game as it always has been, thats the great thing about poker particularly when you present it right, it appeals on so many levels. Some people will drool when they see a 5 bet 400 bb deep pot between Isildur1 and FullFlush and others will be more than happy to see Tony G bust a player and tell them to get on their bike. I can’t say for certain that the introduction of evictions and entrance/exit music is going to prove a hit, but I think it’s a step in the right direction.


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