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Poker in the limelight

I was thinking recently about how poker becoming televised has affected the game. I don’t mean the community at large. Obviously that has changed a great deal. I never even knew of a professional poker circuit before ESPN started making a big deal out of the world series. The number of players and spectators is astronomical compared to when there used to be only 100 players.

What I mean is what effect has it had on actual game play when the cameras are there? I would think that especially that first year after the televised world series became a big hit, there must have been some kind of impact on the pro players who had been there for years already. Having worked in the TV and Film industry I can say from personal experience that having a camera there changes things, no matter what it is.

One gets in front of the camera, especially if they are not used to it, and sort of has an existential moment where they aren’t sure how to act. They act like they think one should act in front of a camera, but they don’t know, they’ve never been in front of one before! Poker is a game that requires one to be deceptive in their actions already and to try and appear “natural” under stress that I have to believe that cameras surrounding the table had an impact, at least in the beginning.

There are of course different types of players. Someone like Scotty Nguyen obviously would have had a much faster adjustment period. His boisterous, full or bravado style lends itself to having all eyes on him anyway. But, there are just as many, if not more of the introverted cerebral types (especially on the pro circuit) like Howard Lederer or even Johnny Chan.

They thrive more on being innocuous at the table and losing themselves in the complexities of the game. Of course now there is a whole generation of players that have come into poker specifically as a spectator sport. They were introduced to it as such and have that in their minds when they play. Which leads to another question; now that the spotlight is fading, will that affect them?

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