The River shows the WinStar World Championship Series, a $3,000,000 tournament and the satellites leading up to it. The show has good commentary, but there’s a lot of non-poker content and the onscreen graphics are weak.
Greg Raymer has long been one of my favorite poker commentators. He’s good here, whether doing analysis or being interviewed by host Norm Hitzges, and co-commentator Annie Duke is nearly as good. Norm Hitzges is a local personality, not a poker expert, but he’s better than most at asking poker questions and interviewing people.
One major problem with the show is that there’s too much non-poker content: it’s a talk show almost as much as a poker show. They interview people (frequently Raymer and Duke), answer reader questions, and have educational segments. Early on I didn’t mind this much, as Greg Raymer makes a fascinating interview. By the time Norm starts interviewing Dave Stann (a celebrity blackjack player) and players that have already busted out of the tournament, however, I lost some interest. They do a better than average job with these segments, but there are still too many of them. The WWCS partially makes up for that by spending multiple episodes to show a final table, even devoting a full episode to a heads-up match.
The show can also be a bit hard to follow because of the unknown players and weak onscreen graphics. There’s one major problem with the graphics: they show the amount of raises instead of the amount raised to, which is a confusing departure from the standard. They’re also bad about telling us the blinds/antes and other information (though that’s true of most poker shows). Even when discussing the effect of the payout structure, they didn’t bother to tell us what it was.
I’ve heard people say that the WWCS is one of the worst poker shows they’ve ever seen. I don’t think it’s that bad, however. If they’d improve their onscreen graphics, be more selective with the non-poker content, and introduce the players at the beginning of the show it would be a perfectly decent show. I give it ** out of *****.