This was the week…that High Stakes Poker first aired

Mo Afdhal
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Posted on: January 17, 2024 10:59 am EST

If you’re a fan of poker content, you’ve seen High Stakes Poker.

Since its original airdate–seventeen years ago–on January 16, 2006, the show has held a special place in the hearts and minds of poker players across the world. Back then, HSP drew in audiences in part because the cash games shown differed greatly from the traditional televised poker offerings centered on tournament play.

The bricks of cash on the table, a visual now synonymous with the HSP brand, captured viewers’ attention back in 2006 and continue to do so in the present day.

Over the years, poker has evolved and reached new heights in terms of both skill and popularity, but some things in our community have remained constant–HSP is one of them. You can enjoy the full, first episode below.

The early years (2006-2011)

The first four seasons of the show ran from 2006-2007, aired exclusively on GSN (Game Show Network), and were taped at the Golden Nugget (Season One), The Palms (Season Two), and South Point (Seasons Three/Four).

The early seasons introduced new audiences to the established legends of the game, including Doyle Brunson, Johnny Chan, Eli Elezra, Jennifer Harman, Phil Hellmuth, Mike Matusow, Patrik Antonius, Phil Ivey, and a much younger, much blonder Daniel Negreanu.

Haigh Stakes Poker Doyle Brunson
Doyle dominated and Jamie Gold tried to become “the world’s best bluffer”

Season One established the format brilliantly, but it took a bit of time for the show to find its stride. It wasn’t until Seasons Two, Three, and Four that HSP struck gold as they found the perfect balance of player personalities that drove the action and had good table dynamics.

The early seasons gave us numerous unforgettable moments. Who can forget Gus Hansen turning quads against Negreanu’s full house?

Or Erick Lindgren turning quads against Negreanu’s flopped straight? (Yeah, these episodes weren’t kind to Negreanu and he ended up as the unlucky punching bag for most of the show’s run, but it’s alright–he ended up doing okay.)

What about Brad Booth’s legendary, reckless bluff against Ivey?

Surely you remember a 22-year-old Tom Dwan’s ice-cold response to Barry Greenstein’s request to negotiate or take back a portion of a $919,600 pot before running out the remainder of the board: “No, no, sorry. Once.”

Tom Dwan and Barry Greenstein
Tom Dwan and Barry Greenstein clashed in a memorable moment on High Stakes Poker

Seasons Five, Six, and Seven saw the up-and-coming generation of players take the driver’s seat, pushing the action whilst trying desperately to make a name for themselves.

Players like Lex Veldhuis, Ilari Sahamies, Phil Laak, Antonio Esfandiari, Phil Galfond, Bertrand Grospellier, Vanessa Selbst, Jason Mercier, and Andrew Robl–every single one of them jumped at the opportunity to play on poker’s biggest stage, the chance to emulate their heroes from earlier seasons.

PokerGO takes control (2020-present day)

In 2020, PokerGO took control of the HSP brand and assets, acquiring the rights to past seasons and announcing the production and distribution of new episodes.

The show’s revival came after a years-long drought that left audiences clamoring for more HSP. Thankfully, PokerGO answered their pleas and prayers, delivering Seasons Eight, Nine, Ten, and Eleven over the course of the last four years.

The PokerGO era, taped at the ARIA Resort and Casino, introduced audiences to some new names that had emerged in the high stakes cash game world during the show’s hiatus.

There are some on this list that made names for themselves in poker years before, but there’s no denying that a HSP appearance helps spread the word. Rick Salomon, Jean-Robert Bellande, Doug Polk, Jason Koon, Garrett Adelstein, Matt Berkey, Xuan Liu, Jennifer Tilly–these are the players we have to thank for ponying up to play and entertaining us all on Monday nights.

High Stakes Poker
The same High Stakes Poker but new faces and new rivalries

Importantly, PokerGO knew that the product they took over was a delicate one. The history of the show and its special place in our community demanded respect–and PokerGO obliged.

The bricks of cash stayed on the table. Legends of the show like Brunson, Ivey, Negreanu, and Antonius returned. The show’s iconic title sequence remained unchanged.

There were innovations too, of course. In the spring of 2023, PokerGO made HSP history of its own by live-streaming a cash game. The experiment didn’t land perfectly, but maybe that was the whole point. Regardless, the gamble showed that PokerGO would maintain the aspects of the show that made it what it is today, but also bring fresh ideas to push the boundaries.

High Stakes Poker is available to watch on PokerGO and on YouTube, where audiences can find select episodes and highlight clips for free.