GSN invited a few of us writer types down to a Hollywood studio to hang out in the 'Loser's Lounge' (very appropriate) at the taping of GSN's "Poker Royale:Young Bloods".
Firstly, it must be noted that this taping started at 9am. My first thought was "who the hell makes poker players get up at 7am to shoot a TV tournament?
The design of 'Young Bloods was simple enough. Take six of the best young poker pros, and put them up against each other in a made for TV poker tourney. But, this taping was a bit different, as it was being taped in a format known as 'live to tape', meaning they were going to air this sucker that night, with very few edits. They had to tape this early in the day, so they could air a two hour program, and they gave themselves 10 hours of wiggle room before air time were something to have gone wrong.
The 'Young Bloods' for this event were David Williams, Michael "Grinder" Mizrachi, Scott Fischman, top online player Michael Sandberg, Erica Schoenberg (Part of the MIT blackjack team chronicled in the book "Bringing Down the House"), and Erin Ness, a photo editor at Maxim Magazine who won an office pool tournament, and wound up being one of the top female finishers at the WSOP last year.
Let this be a lesson to the poker world, and to all of you who are sitting at your computers, saying WHO??? Are Shoenberg, or Ness top young poker players? Probably even they would admit they have a long way to go to be called that, but they are one thing - very, um, telegenic. That's Hollywood speak for being pretty. And being pretty is good TV, period.
This was supposed to be a two-hour special. It looked at first like they might not get to 20 minutes, much less two hours, as Grinder went out on the first hand holding top pair with Q 10 on a board of 10 5 5. David Williams had played 5 6 of diamonds, and that was that for Grinder. Two hands later, Scott Fischman was gone, and suddenly the GSN people were wondering if they were going to have a two hour special, or a half hour featurette. The blind structure was really steep, and the play was going to be fast. The GSN folks just didn't think it would be this fast.
Eventually, it all evened out, and after over an hour of heads up play David Williams finally took the crown, with Erin Ness finishing second. The two had a very good chemistry, and in fact there were times where I wasn't sure if I was watching a first date, or a final table. It seemed to me (I could be wrong) that Williams took it a little easy on Ness a couple times, as there were a couple hands that stand out that he could have easily raised her on the end, but he chose to just call. He wound up almost paying dearly for this, as she came all the way back, and actually had David out chipped 5 to 1 at one point. In fact, at one point the blinds were so high that David was all in, and Erin would have just had to call $40,000 into a $140,000 pot, and she chose to fold her 5 2 of hearts, both of which were live vs David's J 7 offsuit. That hand allowed Williams to get his hands on a few chips, and he never looked back.
Overall, this was a fun experience. Normally, I might not go to something like this, but I'm very glad I did, and it was nice to hang with some of the players, and commentators, and other folk.
Congrats to David Williams, and the other five 'Young Bloods'. Oh, by the way after I left they taped 'Young Bloods 2' for a future airing. Look for that on a future Friday night on GSN.
Ed Note:Can you compete against the best young bloods of the game? They are playing at Paradise Poker right now.