The poker world loves the new Netflix chess show and are crying out for a poker version, but could poker make a binge worthy show?
I am late to the party but I am just about to finish The Queen’s Gambit and like everyone else in poker I love it. It’s a great show on its own terms but poker people are getting very excited because not only does aspects of the chess remind us of poker, it also looks like a template for how a similar poker show could look.
If you haven’t seen the show I won’t spoil it for you but it is about a young girl with a talent for chess whom we follow from learning the game, playing local tournaments all the way to becoming one of the game’s greats.
The first thing I would say is those early episodes where Beth is learning the ropes and discovering the world of chess tournaments really made me feel nostalgic for the first times I played in live poker tournaments. They really captured what it was like being a noob and discovering a secret world you want to be a part of.
Poker players are now asking if there could be a mainstream Netflix style show that focussed on poker too? The short answer is yes, with a but.
Don’t go heavy on the strategy
Serious poker players want to show the game for all its complexity and finesse. We don’t want to see ridiculous hands like the straight flush in Casino Royale, we want to see somebody make a good value bet with 2nd pair. Mainstream audiences don’t care about that stuff.
I know nothing about chess and upon finishing The Queen’s Gambit I will still know very little. The show actually spent very little time focussing on individual moves or matches, it managed to capture the drama in a way that even a novice can follow. It was the subculture of chess and what happened between matches that got captured in the show, the same would have to be true for a similar poker show.
Rounders is a great movie but there isn’t actually much poker analysis in it, it’s all about the private games, the underground clubs and going to Atlantic City. Non poker players trust the storytellers that the game is going in one direction or the other, they likely have no idea what a Jack coming on the turn means in and of itself.
Poker has ready made stories
Mainstream audiences don’t want to be confused so the poker itself would have to be kept to the bare minimum. It would have to be about the stories around poker, of which we have plenty to draw from.
The Doyle Brunson road gambler stories could easily be a template for a poker show or if you wanted a real like-for-like poker version of Queen’s Gambit, I have always thought the industry has criminally underused the story of Annette Obrestad, a young girl who played underage, built a bankroll in freerolls and went on to win the WSOPE Main Event.
Poker could certainly have a Queen’s Gambit, but manage your expectations on the poker itself if we ever do.
Could poker have a show like Queen’s Gambit break into the mainstream? Let us know in the comments: