6 Hideous Problems With TV Poker

07/06/2016 06:14 pm ET Updated Jul 07, 2017
Ofer Zvi Stern, left, points at Joseph McKeehen, right, during the World Series of Poker Monday, Nov. 9, 2015, in Las Vegas.
Ofer Zvi Stern, left, points at Joseph McKeehen, right, during the World Series of Poker Monday, Nov. 9, 2015, in Las Vegas. Monday was the second of three days of poker-playing before crowning a new champion and awarding more than $7 million to the winner. (AP Photo/John Locher)

1. Not to come off as a whiner, but the sheer number of commercials--the all-important "action to advertising ratio"--is beyond anything regularly seen on TV. And for that reason alone, it's loathsomely offensive. These poker shows not only break for a commercial every seven or eight minutes, but they have the nerve to fill the commercial time with promos for their own product, which makes the whole enterprise seem weirdly incestuous.

2. There is too much mindless commentary being presented by the two (sometimes three!) poker experts sitting at an ESPN-style "commentators' desk." With TV technology allowing us viewers to see the players' hole cards, the producers have basically obviated the need for explanation.

With us seeing everyone's cards, what can these commentators possibly say to edify an audience? Everything is out in the open. Now if the hole cards remained buried throughout the hand, that would be a whole other deal, one that would make speculation worthwhile. But they aren't buried. They're exposed. Which makes their "commentary" superfluous.

3. They insist on using a phony chip count to trick the audience into thinking the stakes are higher than they are. Not only is this a pathetic gimmick, but because it is instantly transparent to any discerning viewer, it becomes a shrill insult.

4. To artificially heighten the drama, the producers intentionally milk the flop. We see two players going head-to-head. One announces he's going "all-in," the other player immediately calls, and both players turn up their hole cards.

Even though there's no more betting, the dealer is instructed to deal the cards as slowly and deliberately as possible, pausing inordinately long before serving up the Turn and the River, as if there were some valid reason to do so, which there isn't. It's pure "show-biz," and it's annoying as hell.

5. In order to increase the sense of competitive drama, there's an audience gallery on the set, replete with friends and family of the players, all of them instructed by the producers to be as demonstrably enthusiastic as possible. Which is why we hear them cheer and hoot and--if they happen to be young men--see them engage in raucous body slams and other quasi-homoerotic behavior. Enough already! This is poker! It ain't a bachelor party.

6. In an effort to "humanize" the enterprise, following a player losing their stake and being forced to leave the table, they will ask them to agree to an inane interview, as if they are going to leave us with some priceless words of wisdom. Invariably, the player says something perfectly reasonable, like, "I played the best I could, and was pleased to have gotten as far as I did." What a monumental waste of time.

Making it infinitely worse, the producers have chosen an attractive young woman to conduct these mindless interviews. And just when you thought it couldn't get any more manipulative and phony, the producers saw fit to "class up" the whole enterprise by making this woman interviewer a Brit--to make her someone who speaks with a very pronounced English accent. It's enough to make you swear off poker.