Televised poker has taken yet another step forward.

On Friday, Harrah's Entertainment (NYSE:HET) and Stock Advisor rec Disney's (NYSE:DIS) ESPN announced an agreement to extend ESPN's coverage of Harrah's World Series of Poker (WSOP) through 2010. But more interestingly, the companies announced that, in addition to the regular coverage, this year's $10,000 buy-in Main Event will be telecast live on pay-per-view -- a first in poker television history.

Three years ago, WPT Enterprises (NASDAQ:WPTE) spawned the worldwide poker craze with its World Poker Tour television show on Discovery Holding's (NASDAQ:DISCA) Travel Channel. Since then, ESPN has expanded its coverage of the World Series of Poker to include a couple dozen WSOP events in addition to the Main Event, as well as several WSOP Circuit Events from around the country. General Electric's (NYSE:GE) Bravo began airing Celebrity Poker Showdown, and its NBC division has recently aired the National Heads-Up Poker Championships. Fox Sports Network now has a few regular shows of its own, including its Poker Superstars tournaments. Sony Pictures Entertainment and LibertyMedia's (NYSE:LINTA) jointly-owned Game Show Network now airs High Stakes Poker.

However, the one thing that all of the shows have in common is that they are edited, and viewers only get to see the big hands of tournaments that have already taken place. And in the case of the really big tournaments, many of the viewers also already know who wins.

What a live pay-per-view event does is take reality poker shows to a new level, and there is no bigger or better tournament for such an occasion than the World Series of Poker Main Event, by far the biggest tournament in poker and the richest sport event in the world. Last year's tournament awarded nearly $53 million in prize money, with champion Jospeh Hachem taking home $7.5 million. Moreover, going PPV allows both Harrah's and Disney to further monetize the WSOP property, with a $24.95 retail price for what will be a 14-day Main Event.

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Fool contributor Jeff Hwang owns none of the companies mentioned above.