Poker Night in America Poker Chips

“Poker Night in America” Inks Deal with CBS Sports Network

Remember when there were non-World Poker Tour and World Series of Poker shows on television? Remember when poker celebrities were created on the small screen? Good times, good times. This week, a new show, “Poker Night in America,” announced that it has signed an agreement to broadcast its weekly program on the CBS Sports Network.

“Poker Night in America” will air on Sunday nights at 10:00pm Eastern and episodes will run from June 29th through the end of December. The CBS Sports Network can be found on cable television lineups around the United States as well as DirecTV and Dish Network. The network is a relatively minor one on the sports section of the dial, known mostly for its broadcasts of mid-major college basketball games and lesser attractive college football games. It also features fringe sports such as World’s Strongest Man competitions, Arena Football, motocross, bull riding, bowling, and non-mainstream auto racing. Think early 1980’s ESPN. Its biggest name personality is sports talk show host, Jim Rome.  CBS Sports Network Logo

The idea behind the show is not necessarily to educate or show mind-blowing poker, but simply to entertain. “We’re making poker fun again – that’s our real goal,” said the show’s creator and president, Todd Anderson, in a press release. “We think poker players and fans have been looking for something new and fresh for a long time. We believe ‘Poker Night in America’ will soon become must-see television for all serious players and fans. Our tag-ling says it all ‘bringing personality back to poker.’”

It sounds like it will be a character-driven show revolving around a high stakes cash game. The minimum buy-in is $5,000 with a $20,000 maximum. Episodes have been filmed at four locations already: Turning Stone Resort in New York, Reno Peppermill, the Rivers in Pittsburgh, and Maryland! Live near Baltimore. More venues are planned as the year moves along.

“Poker Night in America” also films in conjunction with a tournament being held at each location. Episodes will show footage of the final tables of some of the tournaments.

The “cast,” of the episodes, as the show likes to call it, consists of mostly known poker pros with some amateurs selected via open casting calls. As an example, the cast of the first episode, shot at Turning Stone in August, is:

Kristy Arnett
David “ODB” Baker
Lauren Billings
Shawn Buchanan
Shaun Deeb
Eli Elezra
Will “The Thrill” Failla
Layne Flack
Matt Glantz
Phil “The Unabomber” Laak
David Levi
Mike “The Mouth” Matusow
Darwin Moon
Greg “FBT” Mueller
Amanda Musumeci
Dennis Phillips
Dwyte Pilgrim
Tom “Donkeybomber” Schneider
Gavin Smith
David Williams

The action won’t just take place at the poker table. The cameras will follow the poker players around from the beginning of their journey to the casino (some took a private jet) to end, with all sorts of stops in between. Of course, no side story about poker players would be complete without a little golf, because we all know it is tons of fun to watch people who can’t golf make prop bets with each other while golfing.

Since Black Friday, poker programming has been virtually non-existent in the United States, save the World Poker Tour and World Series of Poker. For a few years during the poker boom last decade, poker shows were everywhere; many poker players became celebrities more for their appearances on the shows than for their actual poker success. But after Black Friday hit Full Tilt and PokerStars hard (Full Tilt, in particular), money for poker programming dried up. Because those two poker rooms were the ones paying to put most of those non-WPT, non-WSOP shows on the air in the U.S., the shows disappeared.

“High Stakes Poker,” probably the most popular of the shows (I am not looking at actual viewership numbers to back this claim), ran through 2006 and 2007 and then came back from 2009 through a month after Black Friday in 2011. It was a winner amongst poker fans; it seems like “Poker Night in America” will try to rejuvenate some of “High Stakes Poker’s” appeal with the cash game portions of the show. “Poker After Dark,” a Full Tilt Poker product, was similar to “High Stakes Poker,” but featured a single table, Sit-and-Go format, rather than a cash game format. It was well-liked, but not nearly as much as “High Stakes Poker.” It ran from the beginning of 2007 through September 2011.

“Poker Night in the America” is going to try to resurrect interest not just in poker, but in the people who play the game. Even before Black Friday, it seemed like people were tiring a bit of the same, old poker tournament shows, which is probably one reason why “High Stakes Poker” had such a great appeal. On a network like the CBS Sports Network, ratings might not have to be incredibly high for it to survive, so it will be interesting to see if it can have a successful run.


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