Am I the only person crying out for Channel Ten to return to their old Saturday night scheduling of Dolph Lundgren, Van Damme and cheeky 80s screwball comedies?

While this World Series of Poker is entertainingly addictive viewing (players place their cards face down on a glass table so the audience can see each hand), there was a time when you could watch Police Academy 3 & 4 back to back in the wee hours of a Sunday morning, and thousands would go to bed content, yawning “Oh Tackleberry, you fool”.

But these days it’s all about poker, and before you ask – why the hell is this article in the sports section? – think about its attributes. It’s competitive and skilful, and like other great sports, a certain amount of risk taking, alcohol and blatant cheating is employed.

While the TV show may have been the seed for its popularity, walk to your nearest pub and you’re likely to see a sign advertising their “Pub Poker Nights”; the biggest craze Australia has seen since the “pop-ball”.

Run by companies such as the National Pub Poker League (yes there is such a thing) or Pub Poker, thousands of card-sharp wannabes throughout the country are “going all in” on any given night. In an age where the home supplies just as much entertainment as a pub (DVDs, cable, internet), the venue owners must be more than pleased with this latest fad.

It’s easy to see why it’s so popular. Regular Pub Poker player Ian Saunders told the ABC: “It’s about the social atmosphere and it’s about the game, you know. It’s a great game, there’s a lot of adrenalin in it”. It is also a worthy alternative to the often-dreary trivia night where every second answer seems to be “Alby Mangels”.

Of course, there is a slightly sinister side to the poker craze – the fact that so many pub or televised competitions point fans to online gambling sites where suddenly a vulnerable credit card may be introduced to the sporting fun. Poker loves to sell the dream that any internet player who’s good enough can battle and beat the recognised professionals for huge cash prizes. But for every winner, there are a lot of losers.

Best to stick to the pub comp where the stakes are meaningless plastic chips, with no connection to your bank account.

Peter Fray

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