Poker has become a phenomenon, thanks to cable tournaments featuring celebrities taking a crack at the game -- as well as programs showing off the skills of professionals. Now it seems that Shuffle Master (NASDAQ:SHFL) has been bitten by the populist poker bug.

Through a subsidiary known as Shuffle Up Productions, Shuffle Master will attempt to take advantage of the card-playing fever sweeping the nation by broadcasting tournaments based on Shuffle Master games. Shuffle Up Productions will, according to CEO Mark Yoseloff, help to "leverage our intellectual property and develop live and broadcast events, as well as merchandise based on our extremely popular game offerings." The first game to be exploited will be the company's Three Card Poker asset.

Shuffle Master exists in a sector that remains on fire, sharing the same stage with Ameristar Casinos (NASDAQ:ASCA), Penn National Gaming (NASDAQ:PENN), Station Casinos (NYSE:STN), and Boyd Gaming (NYSE:BYD). It has done very well for investors; last month, Jeff Hwang covered the company's fourth-quarter report, which, as he put it, was quite solid. I myself covered the mistake I made in selling Shuffle Master way (and I mean way) too soon. So I definitely like the company's fundamentals and its industry segment.

However, this news did give me pause. It's true that Shuffle Master already helps casinos develop tournaments, but the idea behind Shuffle Up Productions seems to represent a significant expansion into this area. And it definitively represents a move toward television production -- the subsidiary will act in an "executive producer" capacity. This is mostly a promotional announcement from the company, so no firm financial or structural details have been presented, but let me state that I hope the investment capital put into this venture is not overly large. A couple of Fools on the Shuffle Master discussion board have expressed their reservations already, in a thread titled "I'm not sure about this.". (Community member "swedan" wonders whether this is an example of the dreaded concept known as "deworsification" -- I hear you, my friend.)

I agree with Yoseloff that a broadcasting initiative presents a big branding opportunity. But in Shuffle Master's case, I don't think I would advise acting on it, because I would want the company to focus on its core competencies for purposes of generating growth, which in turn would aid the brand equity of the company's games. And it is always prudent to be wary of jumping onto the bandwagon of a potential fad; the aforementioned "swedan" wonders, "Can this gaming-tournament-on-TV trend keep going for much longer?"

Let's hope the gamble leads to increased returns on investment.

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Fool contributor Steven Mallas owns none of the companies mentioned.