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"E! Hollywood Holdem" On The Air

"E! Hollywood Holdem" On The Air 0001

The continuing celebrity poker boom increased by one on St. Patrick's Day with the premiere of "E! Hollywood Hold 'Em" on the E! Entertainment Network. "Hollywood Hold 'Em" is hosted by professional poker player and WPT Champion Phil "The Unabomber" Laak. The show allows viewers into the home of a celebrity host, and holds a poker game between celebrities, and their friends. This particular episode opened by entering the home of "That 70s Show" star Laura Prepon, who plays Donna on the longtime Fox network series.

The basic premise of the show (and also its basic flaw) is that the show started out as if you were watching the Home & Garden Channel. Prepon escorted Laak around the home she shares with her boyfriend, "Malcolm In The Middle" actor Chris Masterson. They spent about fifteen minutes discussed the decorating, where she felt the most comfortable, how they had come up with the art that decked the walls of the house...THEN we actually got around to what the show is supposed to be about: the celebrity host (or hostess, in this case) has a home game with four of their friends. Laak acts as the dealer for the game, the banter (and cursing, in many cases) continues until one player is left standing. That player collects a cool $10,000. No charity for the money to go to, no premise that it is all for fun, a flat out ten grand for the champ!

Sitting in with Prepon for the home game was her boyfriend Chris, his brother and her fellow "That 70s Show" star Danny Masterson, and two of their usual home game friends (non-celebrities) who had come along for the ride. What followed for the next forty-five minutes or so was often entertaining conversation, sometimes well played poker, and sometimes you had the wish that you were somewhere else. Phil Laak had some pre-taped tips for poker players that weren't terrible (he was dealing to a table of "Unabomber" wannabes) and his hosting style was pleasant. The poker was your usual home game fare, although the highlight of the game had to be Laura Prepon getting pounded as her flopped flush was gutted by one of the non-celebrity friend's flopped ROYAL FLUSH (an occurrence that only comes up about 1 in 19,200 attempts) and the room's excitement over the event. The eventual winner was Danny Masterson, who walked away with the cash while wearing his "Irish Elvis" sunglasses (glasses with green sideburns on them).

One problem with the show was the opening. For those of us who were looking for something along the lines of Bravo's "Celebrity Poker Showdown", you were let down. The house tour that is conducted is useless for a program with "Hold 'Em" in its title. I did not care how they found the house, their artist friend who gave them the paintings that sat unceremoniously in the floor, and that Prepon's kitchen cutting table was off balance. It seemed like an attempt at enticing more of a female audience. The talk at the table was acceptable through the frequent bleeps, talking about work, Phil Laak's girlfriend (actress Jennifer Tilly), and how long everyone had known each other. It rarely raised itself to the humor or general "fun" level of Bravo's program, however.

E! seems to be in for at least a season of this program. Future home game hosts and guests include Macaulay Culkin, Mila Kunis and Wilmer Valderama ("That 70s Show"), Sara Rue ("Less Than Perfect") and Shannon Elizabeth. Additionally, on March 22nd at 8PM (PST), there will be a promotional poker tournament for the show being held at the Geisha House in Los Angeles, where many of the show's participants and other celebrities will be playing, including "Mad TV" funny man Will Sasso, "Species" and "SHESpies" star Natasha Henstridge, "Jay and Silent Bob", otherwise known as Jason Mewes and Kevin Smith, and Lou Diamond Phillips.

The program is not for the serious player (surprise!). It is a way for E! to put their chips in the pot for television poker and attempt to draw in the more "casual" player. The much better home game idea has to be what Sky TV is planning with the Poker Channel, sending Barney Boatman of the Hendon Mob into a normal, everyday person's home game. With the way that most poker telecasts draw ratings, it would be almost a given that "E! Hollywood Hold 'Em" will be around for a while.

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