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Poker Central to Launch TV Network, New Mega-Stakes Tourney

During the poker boom, around a decade ago, poker was on such a heater that many fans dreamt of a television channel dedicated exclusively to poker. ‘Round the clock poker, what could be better? Well, a lot of things, but that’s beside the point. Nothing like that ever happened, but now, when televised poker does not seem to be in the high demand it use to be, Poker Central is getting set to launch the first poker-only television network.

Poker Central has not offered up much in the way of details or programming yet, but describes the network’s content as, “Located in Las Vegas, Nevada, Poker Central® offers unique all‑day, everyday access to exclusive poker tournaments, celebrity players, tips and tricks from the pros, player profiles and stunning destinations from around the globe.”

The first major project for Poker Central will be the $25 million Super High Roller Bowl, which will be held at the ARIA Resort & Casino July 2nd through July 4th. The buy-in for the event is a whopping half a million dollars (hence the Super High Roller title) and organizers project a total prize pool of $25 million. The first place prize is estimated to be $8 million, but of course that all depends on how many people enter.

So far, it looks like the tournament will hit at least that $25 million estimate, as 53 players are already listed on the Super High Roller Bowl website. The roster includes, but is not limited to:

Andrew “luckychewy” Lichtenberger
Andrew “nice2cu” Robl
Antonio Esfandiari
Bobby Baldwin
Brian Rast
Dan Colman
Dan Smith
Daniel “jungleman” Cates
Erik Seidel
Isaac Haxton
JC Tran
Jean-Robert Bellande
Joseph Cheong
Phil “OMGClayAiken” Galfond
Phil Hellmuth
Phil Ivey
Sam Trickett
Scott Seiver
Tom “durrrr” Dwan

There are also a few players from outside the poker world listed, but not specified by name.

The television broadcast will be produced by Poker PROductions and will air on a “major sports network.” Poker PROductions is the leading name in televised poker, having produced the World Series of Poker telecasts for ESPN as well as past fan-favorite shows Poker After Dark and High Stakes Poker.

Super High Roller Bowl championship ring

Super High Roller Bowl championship ring

This is not an invitational – anyone who has $500,000 burning a hole in their pocket can participate. There is no maximum to the number of players who can register and there will be satellites into the event. Poker Central plans on having this be an annual event.

Poker Central has not offered up much of any detail about its new television channel, beyond what was already mentioned. The news of the channel’s entry into the market has been received with mix feelings. There are plenty of diehard poker fans who are excited to have a dedicated network on which they can get their poker fix. Others (this writer included) are skeptical. It is not that they do not want Poker Central to succeed – a successful poker channel can only be good for the game’s growth – it is just that they don’t see it lasting.

Let’s face it. Most of the time, poker is simply not very exciting to watch. Back at the beginning of the poker boom, the advent of the hole card cam made poker spectating much more interesting and, as a result, fans got into watching poker on television much more than they did before. Then, as internet poker became more popular, more people became interested in poker and, in turn, watching poker. Naturally, televised poker was in demand. That is still just a relative term, though. It is still poker after all; there is only so much one can do to make it compelling.

Fast forward to today and, in the United States, it is difficult to find any poker on television aside from the World Poker Tour or, when it is in season, the World Series of Poker. In Europe, there once was a 24-hour poker channel for a short time. The aptly named Poker Channel was launched in March 2005, but only lasted in its originally-intended format until the end of 2006. The channel, now called the Player Channel, still broadcasts, but only as a limited part of other channels’ overall programming.

It is certainly possible that Poker Central could work in the United States (I am working off the assumption that the Las Vegas-based company would broadcast its shows in the U.S.), as there is no other channel in its small niche, but that niche is quite small. It will be a challenge to survive. That said, the Super High Roller Bowl could be fun and it will be interesting to see how the telecast is presented.


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