I’ve pointed out in multiple blog posts that gambling should be considered (and treated as) another form of entertainment. You should evaluate your casino gambling games based on their entertainment value and how much fun you’re having in exchange for your money.
But this doesn’t mean that gambling should be the only form of entertainment you participate in.
You should also read books, attend concerts, and watch movies. You should listen to the radio, enjoy podcasts, and see plays.
And, if you enjoy it, you should watch TV.
The purpose of this post is to give you a list of shows on TV you might enjoy if you’re a gambler.
1 – Sneaky Pete
Did you like Breaking Bad?
I know, who didn’t, right?
What about House?
I loved that one, too.
As it turns out, the star of Breaking Bad Bryan Cranston and the creator of House David Shore teamed up to create a drama about a man who gets out of prison and takes over the identity of the man he shared a prison cell with. The main character, Marius Josipović is played by Giovanni Ribisi. He’s a con artist who desperately wants to avoid the life he had before prison.
The show is available exclusively via Amazon Video, which is home to some of the best television you could ask for.
Sneaky Pete isn’t a TV show about gambling, but it does feature a lot of important scenes at the poker table.
2 – Stan Lee’s Lucky Man
It’s hard to find a creator more in the public eye right now than the recently-deceased Stan Lee. Most people will remember as the creative force behind the Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, the Hulk, and the Avengers.
But he’s also the creator of a TV show called Stan Lee’s Lucky Man, which tells the story of a homicide detective named Harry Clayton. He begins the show as a gambling addict, but he comes into possession of an antique bracelet that gives him the power to control luck.
Clayton, at this point in his life, has lost his family and is deep in debt. He starts to use his newfound powers over luck to start over.
You can watch Stan Lee’s Lucky Man on Sky 1 and NOW TV. It’s a British show, which is a bonus for a certain demographic of TV watchers in the United States. I have a lot of friends who really prefer British television to American television, so this would be the #1 show I’d recommend to them.
3 – Poker After Dark
Not every television show for gamblers is a crime drama like the 2 I’ve mentioned already. Poker After Dark might be considered more of a sporting event than anything else.
Poker After Dark began as a one-hour TV show on NBC in 2007, but it was cancelled in 2011 after Black Friday. Shana Hiatt was the original host, but Marianela Pereyre and Leeann Tweeden took over hostin duties after the 3rd season. Oliver “Ali” Nejad provides commentary.
Poker After Dark didn’t stay cancelled long. It was back on the air on NBCSN in 2012 in reruns, but then they started airing previously unreleased episodes. The show comes on at midnight during the week, but sometimes other sporting events cause the schedule to be adjusted.
Each week consists of a poker game that gets increasingly tense as the blinds go up. The blinds start at $100/$200 on Monday night and go up from there. All the players wear microphones, and most of the show consists of their gameplay and table talk. There’s a limited amount of voice-over commentary, too.
Originally, each week featured 6 poker pros in a $120,000 poker tournament with a $20,000 buy-in. That format changed after the first 3 seasons. Some weeks featured cash games, while others featured heads-up battles. In some episodes, an amateur gets the opportunity to play with the pros.
Some of the poker pros featured regularly on the show include:
- Annie Duke
- Chris “Jesus” Ferguson
- Chris Moneymaker
- Daniel Negreanu
- Doyle Brunson
- Gabe Kaplan (People my age probably remember him mostly for Welcome Back Kotter.)
- Gus Hansen
- Johnny Chan
- Mike Matusow
- Phil Hellmuth
It’s a more entertaining poker TV show than most.
4 – Breaking Vegas
I’ve tried to limit the shows so far to ones that are still on the air, but Breaking Vegas is of such interest to casino gamblers—or should be—that I’ve included it here if you want to watch it on DVD.
Breaking Vegas was on The History Channel in 2004 and focused on gamblers who go the extra mile to win. Sometimes this means the gamblers in question were cheaters, but sometimes it mean that they were just advantage gamblers. The show also aired in Canada on The Discovery Channel.
If you ever wondered how people cheat at casino games, Breaking Vegas is the show to watch. It covers how cheats use sleight-of-hand techniques and illegal devices to get an edge over the casinos. It also features explanations of how to mark cards and how past-posting works.
Past-positing, by the way, is when you change the size of your bet after the outcome of the bet is already determined. For example, if you bet $5 in roulette on black, and you put a $100 chip on top of that bet after you already know the ball is landing on black, you’re engaged in past-posting, which is a notorious way to cheat.
The show also features coverage of legal advantage techniques, including card counting in blackjack, dice control in craps, and biased wheels in roulette.
Breaking Vegas is the spiritual successor to a documentary called Breaking Vegas: The True Story of the MIT Blackjack Team, which also aired on The History Channel.
Notable gamblers featured on the show include:
- Jim McManus
- Keith Taft
- Ken Uston
- Richard Marcus
- Tommy Glenn Carmichael
- Tommy Hyland
If this ever starts airing in re-runs, you should definitely watch it.
5 – Luck
Fans of Deadwood didn’t take to its creator’s new show, Luck, on HBO, and it was cancelled in the middle of its 2nd season. Luck was a drama focused on horse racing and horse betting. Unlike many television shows about gambling, Luck gets most of the details about horse betting right.
The problem was that several horses accidentally died as the show was being filmed.
Dustin Hoffman stars, and 1st-class directors were attached. The 1st episode was directed by Michael Mann. 2 episodes of the 2nd season were filmed, but neither have ever been aired.
PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) criticized the show when 2 horses were injured and subsequently euthanized during the 7th episode of the first season. Both horses stumbled during the racing sequences and suffered from fractures that were too severe for surgery to help.
HBO insists they followed stringent safety precautions, but the controversy still resulted in the cancellation of the show. They said that accidents happen, and they couldn’t guarantee that accidents wouldn’t happen in the future, so it was better to just cancel the show.
But Luck remains one of the most watchable dramas about the world of gambling on television.
6 – The Casino
Fans of reality television might favor re-runs of The Casino, which originally aired on Fox in 2004. Thomas Breitling and Tim Poster star as 2 internet millionaires who take over management of the Golden Nugget Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.
Mark Burnett is probably more famous for his more successful show Survivor, but gamblers might be more interested in The Casino. The show didn’t perform well in the ratings, though, even though casino gamblers love it.
7 – Las Vegas
If you hate cliffhangers, avoid Las Vegas, because it was canceled before the final cliffhanger could be resolved. The show aired on NBC from 2004 to 2008. It’s a drama set in a fictional casino called Montecito Resort and Casino.
In some respects, Las Vegas is a workplace drama focusing on the realities of life managing a casino. James Caan stars in the 1st 4 seasons as a former CIA officer who starts as the security head for the casino but soon moves on to become president of operations. Josh Duhamel takes over as the lead character after Caan’s departure.
Las Vegas was known for featuring cameos from famous people associated with the Las Vegas casino and gambling scene. Some of the cameos featured:
- Annie Duke
- Blue Man Group
- Chris Ferguson
- Criss Angel
- Lance Burton
- Howard Lederer
- Hugh Hefner
- Penn & Teller
- Robert Goulet
- Wayne Newton
- Wolfgang Puck
You can watch reruns of Las Vegas streaming on Hulu.
8 – Big Deal
This is classic British television right here. Big Deal is a dramedy that originally aired on the BBC in the mid 80s.
Ray Brooks stars as a small-time gambler and poker addict in London. His behavior affects both his girlfriend and her daughter.
On British TV, you don’t have “seasons,” you have “series.” Big Deal consists of 3 series of 10 episodes each, for a total of 30 episodes.
Unlike a lot of American gambling shows, Big Deal avoids focusing on the glamorous aspect of gambling. Instead, viewers get to see what the life of a low-stakes gambler is really like—boring and seedy.
Most of the gambling action on the show takes place in various homes and sometimes even vacant lots.
You can find some episodes of Big Deal on YouTube, but you can also buy the show on DVD on Amazon.
9 – World Poker Tour
The World Poker Tour might be the biggest and best-known gambling TV show of all. In fact, it’s more than just a TV show. It’s a series of international poker tournaments that have been held since 2002. The TV shows usually show the final table action for each tournament.
World Poker Tour airs year-round in over 150 different countries, which, frankly, is most of the world. It’s been on for 16 years now and shows no signs of slowing down in popularity.
Tony Dunst and Vince Van Patten provide commentary, but most people remember Mike Sexton as the voice of the show. He retired recently, which opened up a spot for Dunst.
The show also features an anchor, Lynn Gilmartin, who’s been with the show for almost 6 years.
The World Poker Tour is also notable for propelling Shana Hiatt to fame. Courtney Friel and Sabina Gadecki also achieved fame on the show for hosting and doing reporting and interviews with the players.
You can watch World Poker Tour on the Travel Channel
As you can see, if you’re interested in gambling and like watching TV, you have plenty of shows to choose from. The gambling TV shows on this list should keep you busy for the better part of a year. What you watch after that is up to you, although I suspect you’ll find new programs to choose from, too.
Which gambling TV shows do you like to watch and why?