Imagine for a second that it’s the early 1990s and I told you that watching poker on TV would be so amazing that every US network would want to get in on the action.
You’d probably call me crazy. After all, in the early 1990s, watching poker on TV involved a couple of commentators guessing what every poker player happened to be holding. Super boring, if you ask me. Back then, there was no such thing as a hole-card cam.
You know how you can see every player’s hole cards when you watch poker on TV and play along at home, figuring out how you’d play a hand? You know how exciting it is to watch pocket rockets face off against a ladies when the board comes Ace, Queen King? That type of thrill didn’t exist back then.
But it all changed when Henry Orenstein, a Holocaust survivor who now lives in New Jersey, invented the hole-card cam. Orenstein owns 100 patents, but he’s arguably most famous for the hole-card cam that completely changed the game.
The Travel Channel first introduced the hole-card cam when it covered the World Poker Tour, completely changing the broadcast game and catching the eye of ESPN. The sports network followed quickly in 2002 when it covered the World Series of Poker and introduced technology that would allow you to see player’s cards.
After that, all the networks jumped on the hole-card cam bandwagon, with NBC introducing the concept into its National Heads-up Championship series and CBS using hole-card cams for its broadcast of the International Poker Championship.
But the evolution of poker wasn’t always so guaranteed. When Orenstein introduced the hole-cam concept, many people behind-the-scenes were skeptical that poker players would want their secrets displayed to the masses on television.
But with the popularity of poker increasing thanks to Chris Moneymaker’s 2003 WSOP Main Event victory, the hole-card cam concept proved to make celebrities out of poker players, something that would help players become more marketable and ultimately make money without even playing poker thanks to sponsorships and endorsements.
While many people argue that the biggest technological advancement in poker is being able to play online poker at home, I’d argue that the hole-card cam trumps that. After all, without the hole-card cam, watching poker on TV wouldn’t be as exciting, nobody would tune in, and very few people would have the dream to play and win at poker. And with that, online poker might not even be popular at all.