Category Archives: Just My Opinion

Poker On TV: Origins & Memorable Moments

In the United States, there are 103 dedicated sports channels, covering everything from Gridiron to English soccer. Flick through the TV stations at any given time and you are almost guaranteed to come across a live sporting event, no matter how low key it may be.

Action, tactics, excitement, and personal narrative are what draw in audiences in their hundreds of thousands to watch live sports. When the commentator describes the personal journey that Bill Brown has been on to get to the world shin-kicking finals, it makes you want to keep watching.

These stories, moments of drama and tales of triumph over adversity aren’t just unique to the sport. They are all, in fact, vital components of poker, a game that is currently experiencing huge growth in viewing figures.

In this article, we take a look at the growth of poker on television and take a look at some of the best moments broadcast on TV to show you why you should be watching it.
 
 


 
A look at how WSOP poker events were covered by CBS in the 1970s

 
 
Cards On TV: When Did It Start?

Poker is gambling and gambling is seedy. That was the view of millions of people in the mid-twentieth century. It’s no wonder then that poker wasn’t as popular back in the 1950s and 1960s as it is now.

However, towards the end of the swinging sixties, the game began to grow in popularity with a younger, more diverse crowd of players. That shift prompted TV network CBS to broadcast a one-hour highlight show of the World Series of Poker in the early 1970s.

Whilst the initial shows may have been low on critical analysis and light on the discussion concerning poker strategy, it was wildly entertaining. The show’s producers focused more on the personal stories of the players and how this might impact their psychology around the poker table. There was plenty of discussion surrounding their interactions with one another around the table than the actual card play.

The coverage went down well with a national audience and positive viewing figures persuaded network chiefs to persist with their coverage into the next decade.
 
 


 
British TV show Late Night Poker was the first to pioneer the under-table camera which revolutionised future poker coverage

 
 
Cards On TV: The Evolution

Coverage of the World Series of Poker remained largely the same for 20 years after it was first broadcast. That was until a British TV show called Late Night Poker pioneered an under-table camera that allowed viewers to see the cards of every player at the table.

This method of filming was soon used by ESPN, who had bought the rights to WSOP highlights from CBS midway through the 1980s. This small but crucial technical alteration revolutionised the way that poker was covered on TV.

Pundits and commentators began to focus more on the tactical style of players, explaining the permutations of hands to TV viewers. The under-table camera also allowed the personality of individual players to shine through to the audience.

Bluffs and tells were now more obvious to viewers, which allowed players to develop their own brand and alter-egos, similar to how wrestlers do in WWE. Since then, the focus of poker television coverage has been on the personal drama of the players.

Huge personalities have emerged from the world of poker, and now viewers around the world tune in to watch their favourite card shark, knowing their backstory, motivations and playing styles.

This dramatisation has helped to create some incredibly memorable TV moments, just like…
 
 
Accountant To Superstar

In 2003 an accountant from Atlanta qualified for the WSOP by winning an online poker tournament and single-handedly boosted the popularity of the game across the globe. Up until playing in the WSOP, Chris Moneymaker had almost exclusively competed online, which, in 2003, was a lot rarer than it is today.

At the time, many professional players and commentators looked down their noses at online poker. It was believed that the virtual model of the game was so different from the real-life alternative, that no-one from the online poker world could succeed in an actual tournament.

Chris Moneymaker didn’t just prove the critics wrong in winning the WSOP, he completely destroyed their argument in the manner of his victory. With all the cards on the table and absolutely nothing to show for it, Moneymaker went all-in against his opponent Sammy Farha.

Despite having a winning pair of nines, Farha buckled under the pressure and folded, allowing Moneymaker to win the WSOP. That final hand victory was one in the eye for critics of online poker, and according to commentator Norman Chadd, ‘the bluff of the century’.
 
 
The King Is Dead, Long Live The King!

In 1999 Johnny Chan was looking to make it an unprecedented three WSOP Main Event victories in a row. Back then Chan was one of the biggest names in world poker, with a daredevil playing style that tantalized TV audiences and left commentators reaching for ever-higher octaves of excitement.

Perhaps Chan’s own-hype had got to him in this final hand though, as he went all-in against young challenger Phil Hellmuth, holding just A♠7♠ against Hellmuth’s 9♠9♣. Such was Chan’s aura at that time, that audiences and commentators alike expected the cards to fall in his favour.

The K♣K♦10♥ flop gave Chan some potential outs, but neither the Q♠ turn nor 6♠ river helped rescue the hand for Chan and deliver a third-consecutive win.

It was the start of a wonderful career for Phil Hellmuth, who at the time of writing has combined live tournament winnings of over $22 million. Beating Johnny Chan, however, back in 1999 will remain one of the proudest moments of Hellmuth’s career.

It was all captured live on television too, helping to memorialise it in history as one of the greatest moments in WSOP poker.

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The Direction of Ocean’s Eleven: Is TV Next?

It’s hard to argue that the remake of the 1960 original Ocean’s 11 was not a hit. The cast, direction, screenplay, everything worked because, even as a revival, Ocean’s Eleven was fresh. The sequels were bound to have a hard time hitting the mark. Ocean’s 8 performed well domestically but grossed the worst in the series in terms of global revenue, its $297,718,711 a far cry from the first movie’s $450,717,150. A comparison of all four titles suggests audiences are less easy to impress now. Producers are, of course, not done with Ocean and his crews. The current surge in TV show reboots makes fans of this particular franchise keen on the idea of it being adapted for the small screen. Looking at the industry’s landscape, would an Ocean’s Eleven TV series likely be a gem or a flop?

TV Today

With Netflix and Amazon Prime changing the game, TV is not what it used to be. More productions and greater accessibility have created a discerning audience with broad tastes. Getting it right is a challenge, but the fact that Syfy’s 12 Monkeys succeeded in pleasing fans of the original 1995 title for four strong seasons means that it’s not impossible. Good judgment in all aspects of concept and direction – and a decent budget, too – can result in a production that resonates with viewers and sets the next new standard in TV series production.

Movies-turned-TV shows have existed for decades. Among the 20 titles listed on Rolling Stones is Serpico, an extension of Al Pacino’s 1973 movie, except with David Birney as the titular character. Its theme is the closest relatable to an Ocean’s Eleven adaptation, but it also demonstrates how the market for such stories has strengthened over time, considering the popularity of crime dramas now. If Ocean follows his trademark ingenuity and innovation onto the small screen, an audience will definitely be there to greet him.

After all, bold heists and mobsters are just as entertaining to binge watch. The growing Now You See Me franchise comes to mind, as well as several must-watch mafia shows of the past, like The Sopranos (1999-2007) and Boardwalk Empire (2010-2014). If Martin Scorsese, who was heavily involved in Boardwalk Empire, has faith in TV’s ability and willingness to host quality productions, then there are high hopes for an ambitious project like Ocean’s Eleven.

How Ocean Fits

Whether in a book or the small or silver screen, there’s a recipe for creating a heist scenario that’s engaging and memorable. Out of the eight key elements explained by LitReactor, three would benefit the most from a series format. Firstly, characters, good and bad, need time to reveal themselves – their lives and reasons for either turning to crime or building an empire of casinos. They breathe life into a story. The more likeable and interesting they are, the more immersive the series. This also applies to their relationships, thinking back to how Danny Ocean meets and forms a friendship with Linus, Matt Damon’s character. A TV show is a great way of fleshing out the personalities and dynamics that could affect the heist.

The basic part of a story like this is the plan itself. It has to be intricate, unpredictable, and dangerous. If the Breaking the Bank at Caligula’s mission in GTA: San Andreas seems complex, a fictional robbery on TV needs to be even more so to be realistic. Breaking down the scheme, its twists and hiccups, over a number of episodes instead of an hour and a half would allow it all to sink in better. A typical problem with heist movies is the pace – too fast to keep up. While this does motivate some viewers to watch it all over again, a production’s creators taking the time to ease their audience into the plot is always appreciated. People also become more mentally and emotionally involved.

Finally, as already pointed out, plausibility is important. Apart from the plot, the story’s situations and settings need to be believable. Since the Ocean’s series largely takes place in casinos, for example, a TV adaptation could have viewers look deeper into these places and what they mean to the story’s structure and concepts. Its on-screen representation lies, not just in the terminology, but the crowd and suspense, the joys and lights. A production with looser time boundaries is an opportunity to build detail and atmosphere that the movie never had. As viewers, and even participants in casino games, films and online experiences have allowed us to enjoy the casino from the comfort of our home. With the use of live HD video streaming for games such as Betway roulette, fans of casino games can find greater immersion than ever before. With this in mind, having a TV series that can flesh out these experiences can similarly provide viewers with the thrills of playing at a real-life casino.

If this dream is ever realized, though, it would have to be exceptional to compete with other shows, as originality and intrigue increasingly become common ingredients among filmmakers. Let’s not forget how Marvel dropped all its top earners, including Daredevil, with season 3 bringing the hero’s tormented story to a dramatic close. But Ocean’s Eleven has many features that would shine on the small screen. Whoever accepts the challenge is unlikely to take them lightly.

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Free Solo Movie Review

Photo by Mark Murphy // BY-SA 2.0

Out of all the brilliant movies and excellent tv shows out there, Free Solo is probably one of the most intense. A horror movie for anyone who’s scared of heights, this documentary does not disappoint. Imagine hugging a cliff face over a thousand feet in the air with nothing to hold you in your current position but your hands and feet. This is normal for the free solo climber, Alex Honnold. Where others would be terrified at the idea of climbing a mountain or cliff face without ropes and safety gear, Alex meets the challenge head-on with a no holds barred attitude.

Before El Capitan

Alex Honnold has conquered some impossible climbs by himself without safety gear as his movie, Free Solo, shows. The author and rock climber talks about how he doesn’t fear death when he climbs. He doesn’t believe that what he is doing is any riskier than living a normal life. He realizes any mistake could lead to his death, so he calculates his route and movements methodically to achieve his climbs.

Photo by Niccolò Caranti // BY-SA 3.0

The Free Solo documentary gives its audience an inside look at the day-to-day life of Alex Honnold as he prepares for his most significant climb: El Capitan in Yosemite National Park. When Alex is introduced, the audience learns that he lives in a van so he can easily travel to give speeches, book signings and, of course, climb. His simple set-up has served him for nine years, and he hasn’t considered changing where he lives. When asked about his dating life, he says he would choose climbing over a girl any day.

As the documentary continues, Alex’s life takes on some new changes. A girlfriend is introduced, and he begins climbing with her. Unfortunately, early in the movie, Alex falls while climbing a small cliff face while repelling, causing an injury to his spine. However, Alex doesn’t let his injury slow him down and continues on his quest to climb El Capitan. Alex faces another setback when climbing with his girlfriend; this time he’s climbing El Capitan with ropes as a way to figure out his route up the cliff face. He slips and injures his ankle. Again, the movie documents his no-quit attitude as he works on rehabbing his ankle and ascending El Capitan three weeks later.

Jump with me to read more! Continue reading

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Drama On The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills

This week, a new season of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills started on Bravo. If you watched at all, you can tell that this entire season is going to be drama. Lisa Vanderpump and Kyle Richards are already yelling at each other. So what is causing this drama?

It looks like a big issue is that Dorit Kemsley adopted a dog from Lisa Vanderpump’s rescue, Vanderpump Dogs. Later she decided to get rid of the dog, and instead of taking it back to Lisa, she actually gave it to someone else. It somehow ended up in a shelter. They contacted Lisa to let her know so she could get it back. The dog had a chip in it, so they were able to track it back to Lisa.

Lisa was very upset about all of this, and somehow it looks like Kyle Richards got thrown in the middle. The preview for the rest of the season of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills looks like nonstop drama.

Now, Lisa Vanderpump and Kyle Richards aren’t even speaking to each other. These two Real Housewives of Beverly Hills stars have been friends for years. Kyle doesn’t seem to be dealing very well with all that is going on either. She recently shared that she suffers from “crippling anxiety.” She actually had to start taking medication because of it. Hopefully, this season of RHOBH isn’t too hard on Kyle having to watch it all go down.

Rumors are that after this season, Lisa won’t even return to the show. She seems like she is pretty done with it and drama. Lisa is successful without it, so she will be just fine.

Make sure that you don’t miss watching new episodes of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. It airs on Bravo on Tuesday night at 9/8c.

— Mandy Robinson with TV Shows Ace.

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Remembering Spartacus

It has been 8 years since Spartacus first came to our screens, but the memory of the engrossing series still lives on, not just in our minds but in popular culture through merchandising and off-shoots.

As the name would suggest, the show was inspired by the historical Thracian gladiator Spartacus. According to records, the historic gladiator of Rome led a major slave uprising against the departing Romans in Capua.

Despite receiving high praise from critics and fans alike, the show was overlooked at a number of award ceremonies. This is possibly because it was to be overshadowed by Game of Thrones, another big-budget show of a similar genre.

Since the show was first aired in 2010, each episode has gone on to attract an audience of over 1.25 million and gained cult status in the United States, the United Kingdom, and the land the series was filmed, New Zealand. Each episode was granted a huge budget of $5 million to fund the shows much-enjoyed special effects. It’s no shock how popular it has become.

With all that in mind, let’s take a look back at Spartacus and discover how its legacy still lives on today. Jump with me to read more! Continue reading

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