Posts Tagged ‘Television’

New Fox Television Program “LA to Vegas” Borne of Vegas Poker Trips

 New Fox Television Program “LA to Vegas” Borne of Vegas Poker Trips

Everyone loves to get in the creative minds of writers, especially if they come up with something that is unique. Many in the poker world love to hear from David Levien and Brian Koppelman, the duo who wrote the seminal poker movie Rounders (and, to a lesser extent, Runner Runner). Now the creator of a new television comedy on Fox is admitting that his new program was borne of weekend trips to Las Vegas to play poker.

Writer Lon Zimmet is the creator of the new Fox Television comedy LA to Vegas, a half-hour comedy that premiered last week on the Fox network. In an interview with Christopher Lawrence of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Zimmet admitted that, as a struggling writer during the “Moneymaker Boom” in poker, he would frequently go to Las Vegas to ply his poker playing skills. From those trips, it seems, the birth of a television series came.

“I started making (the trip) a lot,” Zimmet stated to Lawrence. “(I) realized a lot of people were getting introduced to poker after I’d been playing for years and (I) could make money off it…So I used to come out one weekend a month and it would pay my rent for the month and it would pay for food for the month.” After more than a decade of fermenting in his mind, Zimmet decided, “That might be a show. (This) might be something.”

The show itself looks quite interesting and does have some outright funny moments. It focuses on the people around the low-budget airline Jackpot Airlines and one particular flight which leaves on a Friday and returns on a Sunday. Captain Dave, portrayed by former The Practice star Dylan McDermott, is more interested in entertaining his passengers than flying the plane. In fact, he is more likely to give his customers suggestions on where to get a steak (or a lap dance) rather than his real job, flying.

McDermott’s character is countered by a flight attendant who is more than his equal. Ronnie, portrayed by actor Kim Matula, is constantly looking for a new job, to be able to get away from what she calls, “People not looking to cheat on their wives and butt-smuggle molly.” They are joined by three constant passengers – an economics professor from UCLA (whom Ronnie initiates into the “Mile High Club” in the first episode), a gambler, and a stripper who makes the commute each weekend and solicits other women to be dancers on the flight. These core five (and another flight attendant, Bernard (Nathan Lee Graham) that really didn’t get a great deal of attention in the first episode) make up the cast.

Or, as Matula says to Lawrence, “It’s The Love Boat in the sky, only dirtier (and the thought of what this show might be like on cable or, even better, on HBO makes the mind wander!).”

The first episode does delve into the dancer recruiting a young lady to “working the pole” while she is on her way with her fiancé to Vegas to elope on a Friday. As the half-hour rolls along, there is other things that show up – the gambler prop betting everything that goes on and Captain Dave’s insistence on wanting to show his Muay Thai skills – and, before you know it, Sunday has rolled around and the fiancé returns sans bride. He becomes a bit agitated at the entire crew and Captain Dave must restrain him (using his Muay Thai abilities) and have him arrested once they return to Los Angeles.

Zimmet promises that there will be more of those short trips – and what went on during them – in the future. “I made sure to pack a staff full of people who are very familiar with Las Vegas, so everyone has their own stories,” he says to Lawrence. “One of my writers actually used to take trips where he’d (get money) from someone just to…place sports bets for them.” Such stories as that seem to be what will make up the gist of LA to Vegas soon.

LA to Vegas will settle into its time slot on Tuesdays at 9PM (Eastern Time) and should be well worth the time for people who know Las Vegas to get to know. It will, at the minimum, give those who know the scene well a chance to say, “Yep…I’ve seen that.”

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“Poker Night in America” Taping Two Television Events in August

 “Poker Night in America” Taping Two Television Events in August

Although it hasn’t been the groundbreaker that many thought it would be, the syndicated poker program Poker Night in America has continued to take its shots. In the month of August, the PNIA cameras will be traipsing the country in broadcasting four tournaments live while also taping cash game events and a “made for television” effort for future broadcast.

The Seminole Hard Rock Poker Open in Hollywood, FL, kicks off in a couple of days with a unique series of tournaments. Called “The Big 4,” the schedule of the SHRPO features (naturally) four tournaments that will play out simultaneously. Beginning on August 9, a $ 1100 No Limit Hold’em (NLHE) with a $ 500,000 guarantee will kick off the festivities for “The Big 4.” Following that the $ 5250 SHRPO Main Event (with a single re-entry) and a $ 3 million guarantee will open play on August 11.

As these two events play, two more will be started. On August 13, a $ 2650 NLHE (no rebuys) freeze-out tournament with a $ 1 million guaranteed prize pool will hit the felt and the $ 25,500 “High Roller” (re-entry allowed) with a $ 2 million guarantee will start on August 14. These tournaments will be running simultaneously as they lead to the penultimate day.

On August 15, “The Big 4” tournaments will all come to a conclusion. Beginning at noon, all four tournament final tables will be in action, crowning champions on each table. PNIA will be on hand to broadcast the action of all four tournaments over their Twitch channel beginning at 12:30 (Eastern Time). In charge of officiating the festivities will be noted poker commentator Ali Nejad and top professional poker player/analyst Maria Ho; both will be tested on the non-stop action that will be around the Hard Rock that day.

PNIA isn’t going to settle with broadcasting four tournaments at one time. Following the close of “The Big 4,” PNIA is going to feature a “High Roller” Cash Game from August 17-19. Although a player list for the three-day event hasn’t been released yet, PNIA officials are encouraging the public to come to the taping of these games beginning at 3PM (Eastern Time). PNIA will also stream the cash games on their Twitch channel.

Not content to take a break after such a hectic schedule, PNIA will only have a couple of days off before their next stream/taping session. Part of the show will be a unique heads up “made for television” matchup, while the second will be the traditional PNIA cash game.

On August 22, PNIA will travel to Schenectady, NY, and the Rivers Casino Resort for the inaugural “King of the Hill” competition. Four players – 14-time World Series of Poker bracelet winner Phil Hellmuth, former WSOP Player of the Year Frank Kassela, and WSOP bracelet winners and online terrors Daniel Cates and Doug Polk – will each put up $ 50,000 of the own money in a heads-up competition. After playing preliminary events on the 22nd, the final heads up match will be held on August 23, with the eventual champion walking off with the championship belt and, perhaps more importantly, the $ 200,000 prize pool in the “winner take all” match.

The preliminary action on August 22 will begin at 3PM (Eastern Time), with the live stream from PNIA starting (on delay) at 3:30. On August 23, the final match will start at 8PM (with the live stream beginning at 8:30) and the public is encouraged to turn out for the action. If people are unable to make it to Rivers Casino, the made-for-television event will be taped for broadcast on the CBS Sports Network.

After the “King of the Hill” has been determined, PNIA will have an “invite only” cash game that will be played over two days. From August 24-25, the seven-handed cash game will also be taped for posterity (and broadcast). As with the Seminole stop, players for the invite only game haven’t been announced yet by PNIA officials.

With all the action in August, it is good to see events – even if they are a “made-for-television” endeavor – outside of the major tournament circuits get some airtime. It is also good to see the cash games featured, something that has been a staple for PNIA. The live streams should prove to be exciting and, once edited for broadcast on the CBS Sports Network, should provide some more nuance beyond the raw feed.

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Poker Central Debut Less Than Exciting Over Streaming Networks Rather Than Actual Television

 Poker Central Debut Less Than Exciting Over Streaming Networks Rather Than Actual Television

After hyping their product as “the world’s only round-the-clock poker TELEVISION network” (emphasis by author), yesterday’s debut of Poker Central was rather disappointing as it became painfully apparent that the new “channel” is nothing more than a streaming outlet, falling far short of the requirement for a TELEVISION station or network.

Visitors to the Poker Central website are sent to a specific area of their website that lists the “outlets” where Poker Central can be found. At this time, only the streaming devices Roku, Amazon Fire, Xbox One and offer the channel in their lineups, with the Xbox 360 being listed as “available soon.” Not listed in any of these offerings are such other popular streaming outlets as the Chromecast, the PlayStation 4 or Apple TV.

What is missing from this list also? How about any of the major cable carriers in the United States or the remainder of the world to broadcast the channel. On the Poker Channel website, visitors can leave their pertinent information – name, e-mail, ZIP code, cable or digital television provider – and Poker Central says they will “e-mail you when the channel is available in your area.” This goes against what the “powers that be” with Poker Central previously stated that it would be – a 24/7 poker “television network.”

Now that we’ve established that this isn’t anything other than a streaming network right now, the actual content of the channel leaves a great deal to be desired. Bringing the channel up on my Roku for a few hours, all I have seen to this point are broadcasts of past tournaments, none of this “exciting” new programming that has been promised by network honchos. Although watching some of the Season 7 Premier League from 2014 was interesting, Poker Central showed ONE episode of the Premier League, then dropped the viewer into a whole other broadcast of the 2009 PKR Heads Up Grand Slam (note to the programmers:  I don’t want to have to search around for the next broadcast of a long past tournament if I am watching it – your broadcast schedule isn’t exactly easy to find on the website or through promotion on the channel itself. Either play it all the way through or don’t do it at all).

On another aside to the executives at Poker Central, it might be a good idea to stay away from those shows that prominently feature some of the players from the old Full Tilt Poker. One of the staples of programming from Poker Central is the old program Face the Ace, where an Average Joe squared off in heads-up matches with players from the Full Tilt stable. You’re not going to win many fans to your network if poker aficionados have to sit down to watch Chris Ferguson or Howard Lederer, two pariahs in the poker world even if it is in the past (the Poker After Dark episodes might be OK, depending on who is playing in the event).

Poker Central does try to give the appearance of a traditional television network, actually running some commercials in their programming. They also run a promotional bumper – a man who accidentally eats a massive amount of wasabi and tries to play it off to his friend as if nothing has happened, with the tag line “Show Us Your Poker Face,” (not surprisingly a contest that the network is currently running) – that is funny the first time you see it, but wears thin really quickly. Unfortunately, this appears to be the only one that they took the time to create, so get used to it.

What is unfortunately evident is that there should have been more of an emphasis placed on creating new programming for Poker Central than finding filler to go in around two or three programs. There is little in what would be called “new” programs on the channel – tournament director Matt Savage is supposed to have what could be an interesting interview program, but no shows currently are scheduled and poker professional Maria Ho is supposed to be the head of another program, also not expected to premiere for some time – leaving…24 hours to fill with something until these shows (and hopefully others) are ready to be broadcast.

Yes, Poker Central is in its embryonic stage of its development. It will take some time to get a catalog built up so that the channel isn’t playing poker tournaments 23 hours a day, but it is something that needs to be addressed quickly. It also must be addressed that Poker Central isn’t an actual television channel but a streaming one. When you bluff, you have to be telling a convincing story…Poker Central’s leadership isn’t doing well on that front. Perhaps a few more months in development would have provided a better product; it will be tough to keep an audience if you are creating it on the fly.

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