Even More Poker on Television

by Lou on April 15, 2005

Two weeks ago I attneded the National Cable and Telecommunications Association’s conference in San Francisco. Unless you’re in the TV biz, you’ve probably never heard of it, but it’s a big thing to those in the industry. Fully 17,000 people attended the conference, and it spanned both halls of the City’s Moscone Convention Center.

I was there at the invitiation of the folks at CGTV, the Casino and Gaming TV Network, a new television network that will go live in Canada later this spring and plans to launch in the US later in the year. CGTV was one of the sponsors of “Vegas Virgins,” which was where our connection was made.

To give you an idea of the size and shape of the convention itself, CGTV’s booth was sized at 80 x 100 feet, and resembled a small version of the Bellagio’s casino, complete with poker table, craps pit, roulette wheels, blackjack tables along with a conference room and a sitting area. It wasn’t the largest booth in the room either. Right next to it were booths from ESPN and from Disney and they were even larger. The exhibitors at this conference don’t scrimp on the exhibits they put in place. It is a big prodcution.

CGTV’s booth attracted a significant amount of attention,. Even the founders of Google walked through it at different times, as did a variety of well-known folks in the cable TV biz.

Although CGTV is not yet airing in the United States, its very presence speaks volumes about the social acceptance of gaming, casinos, wagering, and games of skill and of chance, simply by virtue of the fact that a network can be built on this theme alone. Poker will be a staple of CGTV, and they plan to offer instructional material on their network as well as provide coverage of gaming, poker, and other similar events.

San Francisco based poker player John McCutcheon and I were staffing their poker set up at the conference, and hostesses garbed as Vegas showgirls – complete with feathery headdresses – were distributing chips to passers by. When they learned they could sit down and play poker and that John and I would be helping them learn the game, the table was always full and we had to ask some players to get up and go after they’d been there a while to give others a chance to sit down and play.

So popular was poker that some conference attendees were ditching sessions they had planned to attend because they preferred to sit and learn how to play a game they had become fascinated with, but had never really had a chance to play. John and I did our best to demystify the game, and as players grew familiar with the mechanics of the game, how the blinds worked and how the dealer button moved around the table, they grew in confidcecne and many said they felt ready to either go online or venture out to a traditional casino to play. When I told people they could also play poker for real money or play money on the internet and handed them a CD to download Royal Vegas Poker’s software, they were looking to go back to their hotel rooms, insert that puppy into their laptops, and give it a go.

I had the distinct feeling I was watching the growth of poker before my eyes. Newbies were sitting down, playing a few dozen hands, and feeling like they were getting the hang of it. Everyone, and I mean everyone who sat down, seemned to enjoy time at the table. There wasn’t a soul there who tried poker and said, “I don’t really like it,” or “I’m just not getting it.” They all got it. And it was nice to see.

I didn’t have any expectations before I attended NCTA. I’m not in the cable industry and never thought much about it before I met some of the CGTV principals while I was filming “Vegas Virgins.” But I was amazed at the size and scope of this conference, of some of the new and innovative directions cable TV is heading into. But more than anything else, I was stunned at the interest everyone has in poker. And much of the interest I saw wasn’t simply a business interest either. It was personal.

Like folks everywhere, these people like poker. And they wanted to play. Even if the chips didn’t represent real money at all, and could only be exchanged for CGTV logo gear like T-shirts and ball caps, these players took the game seriously. They took it to heart and into their hearts too. If I harbored any thoughts at all that the interest in poker might be near peaking and that the arc might have crested, I was sadly mistaken. It’s still ramping up; the arc is heading north, and more and more people are just itching to get in the game. And ain’t that grand?

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