By far one of the most popular new poker programs on television this year has been GSN's 'High Stakes Poker'. The show has been applauded by critics and players both for the different approach to broadcast poker; rather than showing the tournament format that has become de rigueur, "High Stakes Poker" featured the greatest players in the game, including Doyle Brunson, Johnny Chan, Daniel Negreanu, Barry Greenstein, Sam Farha and Phil Hellmuth, in a No-Limit cash game where the minimum buy-in was $100,000. Calling it "the only real game of poker on television" wouldn't be far from the actual truth.
After the successful first season, GSN couldn't wait to bring the combatants back for another battle at the tables. In May, after the end of the WPT Championship, the players and the cameras were at The Palms Casino and Resort (a change from the Golden Nugget in Season One) to film the second season of the highly successful show. With two days of poker in the can from those sessions, GSN is bringing back "High Stakes Poker" for a second season beginning on June 5th at 9PM Eastern Time.
Expanded from thirteen weeks to sixteen weeks in Season Two, the show also brings more players to the felt that the inaugural show did. Many of the competitors from Season One, including all the gentlemen mentioned above, will be back for another taste of high dollar professional poker. Joining them as well will be newcomers Phil "The Unabomber" Laak, Mike Matusow, Michael Mizrachi, Erick Lindgren, John Juanda, Amnon Filippi, David Grey, Minh Ly, Brad Booth, Gus Hansen and Cory Zeidman. There were also three amateur players last year, with Dr. Jerry Buss (owner of the Los Angeles Lakers), Dr. Amir Nasseri and Chicago restaurateur Fred Chamanara, who squared off against the "big guns"; only Chamanara will be back for a second go at the pros.
Both A. J. Benza and Gabe Kaplan will be back again in Season Two to call the action at the tables. Kaplan has proven himself to be one of the most underrated and under-appreciated analyst in television poker today as he expertly balances a rapier wit and snappy patter with excellent poker information and knowledge of the players at the table. While he started slowly, Benza learned how to play off his co-host and, by the end of the first season, was an enjoyable part of the show.
If the action of Season One is any indication, Season Two should be a rollicking ride. Everyone should remember Daniel Negreanu digging a tremendous hole for himself (after buying in for a cool $1 million) before coming back to end the show with a slight loss. Sam Farha, who has made a lifetime out of his willingness to gamble, entertained the viewing audience and baffled his tablemates with his ability to catch cards (especially memorable was the bad beat his Kings put on Barry Greenstein's Aces with both all-in on the last hand of an episode). And then there was Phil Hellmuth, who gave the censors a workout with a barrage of expletives when he came to the table.
All of the action should play out very well over the sixteen weeks following the debut of the Second Season of "High Stakes Poker" on GSN on June 5th at 9PM. For more information on the program and details on all of the combatants, be sure to visit gsn.com.
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