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Among the strangest spectacles available these days is the televised poker tournament. How is this possible? Ten strange-looking guys sitting around a table and staring at each other doesn’t seem the stuff of compelling television. And yet somehow, it is.

High profile programs are now regularly aired on ESPN (The World Series of Poker), Bravo (Celebrity Poker Showdown), the Travel Channel (The World Poker Tour), and Fox Sports. The major broadcast networks have also started picking up on the trend. For instance, this year NBC produced its own poker event — the National Heads-Up Poker Championship — to counterprogram against the Super Bowl pre-game shows on Fox. ESPN even has its own drama, Tilt, fictionalizing the world of high-stakes poker in Vegas. Poker is, suddenly, serious business. Read the rest of this entry »