Was High Stakes Poker Right to Return?

The return of High Stakes Poker created a frisson of excitement among poker fans. Fondly remembered as one of the very best experiences of watching poker on television, the prospect of it coming back to fans’ TV screens was tantalising.

With High Stakes Poker now back, what has the reaction been like? And was it right to bring the show back? Let’s take a look at an iconic example of poker on the small screen and analyse it in detail.

The Origins of a Classic

What makes it so hard to bring a popular program back to television is often how difficult it is for any reboot to match the original. The initial run of High Stakes Poker lasted from 2006 to 2011. It featured seven seasons of fun-filled madness starring some of the biggest and best poker players on the planet.

The line-ups were spectacular, with players like Gus Hansen, Phil Ivey, Daniel Negreanu, Doyle Brunson, Phil Hellmuth, Phil Galfond, Tom Dwan and Barry Greenstein all seeing their stars rise thanks to their appearances on the show. The pace of the show combined with the amount of money on the line meant that players never had to force the issue by playing more hands than were necessary. The pace of the action was perfect.

High Stakes Poker Logo

The general format of High Stakes Poker was no limit hold’em with blinds of $300/$600, but Season Four forced players to put down a mandatory third big bet (or enforced ‘straddle’ bet of $1,200). Players often simply re-straddled that to $2,400, instantly making the action even bigger.

Each series was filmed over 24 hours and was edited down to around 13 episodes, featuring some of the best poker table banter ever seen. Just watch these hilarious clips of Phil Hellmuth in action against players such as Phil Laak, Antonio Esfandiari and Mike Matusow and you’ll get a flavour of exactly what made High Stakes Poker’s first run so popular.

Huge Pots Mean Big Drama

One of the biggest attractions of watching High Stakes Poker is that at some stage, two big names are going to get the chips in the middle with six figures on the line. So often in other high stakes poker formats, this isn’t the case. Each game has been set up in those other games to feature one player who either drives the action or pays for it.

With a minimum buy-in of $100,000, many High Stakes Poker players would often buy in for around a million dollars and had no shame about leaving it on the table in chunks of dollar bills. It all added to the tension and excitement around every big hand.

In High Stakes Poker, every player is a big name and with those names come some very big egos. That clash of temperaments often contributed to big pots coming together because of an element of emotional battling, something that recently has gone out of fashion, but between 2006 was an ever-present facet of televised poker.

One player who featured in many of the biggest pots was the ice-cool Finnish player Patrik Antonius. Some of his biggest pots are great examples of how High Stakes Poker became the runaway success that it was.

Staying Faithful to the Original

While the players were hugely important to the High Stakes Poker brand, when the show was brought back in 2020, they weren’t the only big names to return. Gabe Kaplan and A.J. Benza were a memorable presenting duo when the series was first launched, so bringing them back for the 2020 series was vital and when it happened, the magic of HSP was back.

High Stakes Poker was initially a television show which proved a cult hit with internet-based poker fans. The reverse was needed for the current iteration of the show to be as successful. Re-launching the show on PokerGO was a risk. So far, it looks to have been a major success. It has to be said that overall, the series’ return has been a great accomplishment by all concerned. In the returning series, Tom Dwan played the biggest pot the show has ever seen in an unmissable display of powerful, ego-driven poker.

Is High Stakes Poker Here to Stay?

The feedback from fans has been universally positive. Players and viewers alike hoping that the format is here to stay. Bringing High Stakes Poker back was a calculated decision. And with PokerGO purchasing the rights to the original seven seasons, they found a way to bridge the content gap for any new fans wishing to catch up on the old series. And the old audience wanting to keep anything adding to the canon as definitively new material. Everyone seems happy with the mix as it exists right now.

Season 8 of High Stakes Poker brought the combination that fans loved from the first seven seasons back in every respect. From the same presenters to the format that went down so well with everyone involved, everything looked and felt just right. That led to big pots and massive drama played between some of the most entertaining poker players on the planet.

You can watch the whole collection of High Stakes Poker episodes, including all seven original series from 2006 to 2011 and the November 2020 reboot right here if you’re a PokerGO subscriber.

High Stakes Poker

While the original High Stakes Poker will never be forgotten, having one of the best ever poker series back in the same format and in Las Vegas is going to be the gift that keeps giving. As long as there are players willing to put huge chunks of money on the line, there will always be room for a show that pits the biggest players against each other and never holds back when it comes to presenting the action in the most exciting way possible.

High Stakes Poker is back in a big way. It looks like the classic series has been rebooted with enough of the old magic to become a mainstay of the new poker broadcasting landscape.

We’d anticipate plenty of new action to come in years to come, with the location of ARIA Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas the perfect location for PokerGO’s show to run and run – just like in the good old days.

Paul Seaton

Paul Seaton

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