Would WSOP Still Be Popular If You Couldn’t See Players’ Hole Cards?

Would WSOP Still Be Popular If You Couldn’t See Players’ Hole Cards?

Poker owes a great deal of its popularity to TV exposure.

Although the game has been on our screens for a long time, it wasn’t until 1999 – the year the hole card cam was invented – that things started to really take off.

Of course, no single entity has reaped more benefits from the introduction of the hole card cam than the World Series of Poker, whose ratings skyrocketed in the years that followed.

So, the question is: Why is it so important for people to see hole cards? And, more importantly, would they still be interested in WSOP if they couldn’t?

The Allure Of Seeing Players’ Hole Cards

Why was it that poker grew in popularity so much once the hole card camera was introduced to the televised WSOP competition?

It was still the same game, the same players, and the same action.

The only difference was that viewers no longer had to wait for the showdown to see players’ hands. In the hands that didn’t go to a showdown, they had the advantage of knowing what players had.

On the surface, it doesn’t look all that important.

But, knowing players’ holdings offers a much better experience as it allows viewers to get involved in the action.

With the full information at their disposal, they know if a player is bluffing or has a monster, which makes it much more exciting.

It provides them the opportunity to root for the result they want to see. If their favorite player is facing a huge bluff, they can shout at the TV for them to make the call.

If the same player is holding the nuts and has moved all-in, the audience at home can root for their opponent to call and stack off.

Thanks to the hole-card camera, people at home get to “play” perfect poker.

Having all the information readily available, they know exactly what to do, and they get mad about players doing the wrong thing.

And if you have no idea what they’re staring at, it’s really hard to give advice on what they’re supposed to do.

That’s why the hole card cam was a game-changer.

You really don’t need to know much about poker to know someone should fold their Pocket Jacks before the flop when you know the other guy has Pocket Aces.

So, having that information, viewers get much more immersed and involved with the game, as they can easily offer “expert” advice even to the best of the best.

How could Ivey make that silly call when it was so obvious the guy had the nuts?

It was far from obvious, of course, but it kind of seems obvious when you can see the hole cards.

It’s an interesting phenomenon, but it works wonders for ratings, and professional players aren’t overly concerned about what random viewers think of their play.

TV Poker Without Seeing Hole Cards – Does It Work?

Poker hole cam
Image: YouTube

Why did Texas Hold’em become the most popular form out of all poker variations out there? Is it really the best, the purest, and the most entertaining poker format?

I guess it is, to some extent, but a big part of the reason for the game’s popularity is the fact that it’s the easiest format for TV production.

With just two cards in the hole, it was easy to put them on the screen and get the audience to follow along.

Trying to do something like this with a game like Seven Card Stud would be a real nightmare, especially for early-day hole card cams.

The game started to become really popular when WSOP made it possible to see players’ hole cards, allowing viewers to go behind the scenes and see how poker players think.

Poker was on TV long before these cams, but it wasn’t very popular. Save for hardcore fans of the game, not many people were interested in watching the game on TV.

Without the benefit of seeing hole cards, they had no real idea what was going on.

So, if we go back in time and look at the information we have, I would say that WSOP wouldn’t be nearly as popular without showing players’ hole cards.

It’s one thing to watch a player sweat over a difficult decision when you know what they’re up against.

If you have no idea about whether the other player is bluffing or not, though, it’s just not nearly as involving.

Today, however, the situation might be slightly different.

The profile of an average poker show viewer has changed quite a bit. Most people who watch WSOP today know at least something about poker.

Texas Hold’em has become a global phenomenon, and it’s no longer some obscure game that people are getting used to.

Even without hole cards, the final tables of big WSOP tournaments would still bring in decent viewer numbers. In fact, this approach has been tested with live coverage of some events, and there was plenty of interest.

Overall though, I’d say that watching without knowing hole cards just isn’t the same experience.

Hardcore poker fans will watch the game in any format as long as there is a good lineup, but the number of hardcore fans is probably not big enough to make up the production costs.

What Happens If WSOP Can No Longer Show Players’ Hole Cards?

If there is one thing that we can be certain of, that’s the uncertainty of gambling laws – especially in the United States.

New laws and regulations are passed quite frequently, especially on a state level, often impacting the gaming industry.

It’s not completely impossible that at some point, for whatever reason, showing players’ hole cards on TV could be banned.

You could argue that it doesn’t make sense, but there are many things in various gambling laws that don’t make much sense.

If we take this hypothetical scenario, in which Nevada prohibits showing hole cards, how could this impact the World Series of Poker?

From my point of view, it would be a huge blow.

WSOP has already had to deal with rating drops after online poker was banned in the United States, and people lost interest in the game.

But if they had to somehow produce interesting content without the ability to show hole cards during hands, I think that would be too big of an ask.

On one side, there is the fact that people know much more about poker and can, to some degree, enjoy the content without this information.

On the other, however, you have an average viewer who’s looking for exciting and engaging content that captures their attention. I don’t think that poker without the hole cards’ information can meet those expectations.

Without showing hole cards, WSOP would be asking the audience to constantly think about hands and follow the action closely if they want to enjoy the show.

I feel that’s just too much to ask from someone who’s just looking for a bit of entertainment.

Summary: Televised Poker Would Struggle Without Showing Hole Cards

Even as someone who truly loves watching and playing the game, I think that WSOP tournaments (or any other televised poker events, for that matter) wouldn’t be enjoyable to watch without showing hole cards.

It could be fun for a little while, but watching an hour or two of tournament action without any hole card information sounds boring. Perhaps not everyone shares this point of view, but I believe that it would hurt interest in poker quite a bit.

The poker industry owes a great deal to the hole card cam inventor, as it’s hard to imagine the game without it.

And, hopefully, we’ll never have to find out what it would be like to watch WSOP without hole cards showing.