Monday night (May 1st) at 9PM (Eastern Time) marked the premiere of poker professional Annie Duke's poker show 'Annie Duke Takes On The World' on GSN. Take the title of the program, co-produced by Duke and veteran television producer Andrew Golder (also responsible for the Emmy-winning game show "Win Ben Stein's Money"), and you pretty much have the premise for what is going on. Four players take on each other in a No-Limit Texas Hold 'Em tournament, with the survivor of the event squaring off against the poker champion for a $10,000 prize. Along the way, there are some interesting parts of the program which could draw many poker fans to watch the show.
As she is always, Annie is pleasant as the hostess for the program. While the players at the table take part in the tournament, she critiques their play and offers some excellent insight into the mistakes that many amateur players make at the tables. She sometimes can run into roadblocks as the players will sometimes either forget or not take her advice, which (in a very funny manner) Duke will chide them for without coming off as being mean. This helps in the general "fun" nature of the program, as if she was to be too domineering regarding her tutelage then it would definitely distract from the program.
Don't be distracted by the factor that the show is played up for this fun side. The four contestants (in the premiere show, a brain surgeon, a musician, a telephone "cleaner" and a children's book author) compete very hard against each other for the $1,000 prize that is guaranteed to the winner of what basically is a four person sit and go and the additional prize of attempting to take Duke down for the ten grand payday. Annie's co-host, comedian Regan Burns (more on him in a moment), playfully engages the contestants so that, while the game is going on, the viewers learn about the contestants and allows those watching the show to have a particular feel for who they want to win. All of the banter at the table leads to the eventual showdown between Duke and the winner for the grand prize during the show.
There were a couple of things, however, that were drawbacks to the program. Because the program is only an hour long, there isn't very much poker shown between the contestants (maybe slightly over a dozen hands), with approximately a third of the program featuring the final heads up game with Annie. On the first episode, the blinds jumped from their starting level of 50/100 (with a 25 ante) to a 500/1000/100 ante very quickly. This displayed that either there wasn't much excitement at the tables or that they were moving up at a very rapid rate (possibly both). With only 10,000 in chips to start the event, it meant that the players were going to have to make some moves, which we didn't get to see much of on the program.
As far as determining who is leading in the event, we're left to Annie telling us who has the largest stack without definitive numbers being stated. While "Annie Duke Takes On The World" is a fun program, it is still a competition. It would be a good touch to have a displayed "chip count" as to how the players literally stack up against each other as the show goes on.
Co-host Burns perhaps wasn't the best choice for the program, either. While he is a funny guy from the stand up that I have seen him do, he had a grating vocal style and approach to the tournament that is a stark contrast to the laid back and congenial Annie. He also delved into a bag of sexual innuendoes regarding his co-host when she was reaching across the table to count down the chip stack of one of the contestants that, while not terribly offensive, didn't help to serve to her respect as one of the best poker players in the world.
Finally, the toughest thing that "Annie Duke Takes On The World" may face is a fictional government agent with more trouble in one day than most have in their entire lives. The show is slotted directly against the longtime Fox success "24" which, for some poker fans who watch the Emmy winning program as well, makes for a highly difficult choice for viewing on a Monday night. Some people may opt to test out their TiVo's for recording Annie's program or "24" and, with a replay of Duke's program at 2AM Tuesday mornings on GSN, it could run into problems with its broadcast of new episodes in its 9PM time slot.
"Annie Duke Takes On The World" is worth taking an hour out of your viewing evening to check out because it is an entertaining program. The fun side is more of a draw than the poker that is played, but there is still some great poker to be had for viewers. The advice that Annie offers during the program is highly insightful and very helpful for beginners at the game of poker and, once she steps to the felt herself, she attacks it with the same voracity that she takes to the tables for a major poker tournament. The show may not approach the same level of intensity that is on the major poker tour broadcasts, but it is still entertaining nonetheless. If they could give the program a little better scheduling and iron out some of the kinks, perhaps more people will be a part of "Annie Duke Takes On The World".
Ed note: Annie just might take you on at Ultimate Bet sign up today.