So you’re watching a poker tournament on television and there are five minutes left. Say Phil Ivey has a 9 to 1 chip lead over Phil Hellmuth. Who do you think is going to win? World Poker Tour founder Steve Lipscomb realized a flaw in the presentation of his poker tournaments to date. In almost every situation with ten minutes left there is no drama; the tournament is essentially over. That is why Lipscomb and the World Poker Tour fans are excited about the tour’s new affiliation with Fox Sports Network, or FSN as it is commonly known.
“We’ve been a two-hour format, in which you pretty much know when it’s coming to an end,” Lipscomb said in an interview at the Bellagio. “So that was one of the things we struggled with and tried to tell that story the best way we could. With the one-hour shows, in the middle of a heads-up match, it may look like it’s over but there’s a great comeback on the way. You won’t know in the last 10 minutes what’s going to happen.
The World Poker Tour and FSN have teamed up for the tour’s seventh season, which began with the Bellagio Cup IV last week. The partnership follows five years with the Travel Channel and one year with the Games Network, or GSN, the former home of
“High-Stakes”. “I feel like a man who’s been in the desert waiting for a cold glass of water for a long time,” Lipscomb said. “I would never take anything away from the other partners that we’ve had, because they’ve been very important for the World Poker Tour and for poker to be able to be where it is. I think everyone who cares about poker, everyone who wants it to take its rightful place, I believe, among the long-term sports leagues of the world, should be applauding and cheering this move, that there is a vision on the broadcast side of it with FSN that understands what poker can and should be. This is an opportunity to show what it can really do.”
Fox Sports seems the perfect place to host the World Poker Tour because of their innovative style. FSN’s VP George Greenberg says they will take new risks in their production of the shows. “…sometimes you make mistakes. Look, was the glowing puck the greatest invention? Well, from that glowing puck actually came the first-down marker. We’ll continue to take chances, and I promise you, we’re going to activate this show.”
Fox Sports has already shown such innovations as the heart monitor in the Poker Dome Challenge. They are certainly not adverse to risk-taking. “Take a look at our poker programming and what we’ve done with it,” Greenberg said. “We’ve shown live poker, which people thought was insanity. But to us, it’s a sporting event and a challenge. With the World Poker Tour, there are so many ways to go with this using the technology of Fox Sports. If there’s a chance to do something, we’ll take the chance.”
Today so many people are getting involved in the poker world and they are interested in the ins and outs. Fox Sports hopes to utilize this interest to change the way poker is broadcast, focusing less on the “coin-flip” aspects and more on strategy. “Because of the nature of the audience at FSN as well as the edginess of the network, I believe we have the freedom to express some of the more interesting, gritty and sexy sides of poker,” Lipscomb said. “What we can do together is help the perception of poker as a sport, to completely legitimize it. It will look more and more like a sport, and that’s a great thing.”
Fox Sports is taking poker in the direction for which many are fighting. In the days of the depression, gamblers were bums. But, now the world is changing and professional poker is attempting to establish itself as a sport, letting everyone know this is a game of skill and its players are worthy of praise. The World Poker Tour is at the front lines with Fox Sports leading the charge.