Let's face it. Do we really need more poker on TV? With some of the pitiful offerings we've seen over the last couple years, every time I hear about a new poker TV show, a part of me cringes.
So, it was with a slight bit of trepidation that I approached the premier episode of the MansionPoker.net Poker Dome Challenge show on FSN. The TIVO was set, and I settled in to check out the show that I had been hearing about, and we've been writing about for months.
The first thing I have to say about the show right off the bat is it looks like a million bucks. The graphics and production value of the show set the new standard in the TV poker arena. Having grown up in LA, I know the kind of work making a production look like this takes, and these folks definitely put the time in.
The format also makes for compelling television. The six contestants were playing "Speed Poker", a format developed by Keith 'Bendigo' Sloan, and indeed a format that helps speed along the game, and makes it more TV friendly.
I didn't think it would be possible in 2006 to hold my attention while watching 'unknown' players play poker, but this show did a pretty good job. For this first show, the players were not completely unknown, as current WSOP Pot Limit Hold Em champion Brian Wilson was in the field, as was Rhowena Colclough, who outside the UK is mostly known for being married to top European player David Colclough. Rhowena actually outlasted the field, and won the tournament, advancing her to the next round.
The Speed Poker format and the slick production value of the show made this a poker show actually worth checking out. One thing that I expected and really didn't get was a little more use of the audience, who can see the players hole cards, but the players can't see, or hear the audience. I think seeing audience reaction real time to the cards that fall, while the players are mere feet away could be another thing that might make the show even more interesting.
I also look forward to some fresh talent in the announcing booth. While Barry Tompkins is a complete pro, I look forward to some of the other announcers that have been added to the show – people like Mike Gratz, and (reportedly) Joe Sebok, who hopefully will add a little more fun, and hip factor into a medium that could certainly use it. Gracz and Sebok will 'rotate' in as announcers, and I look forward to seeing what that's like as well.
Basically, this show has about 42 more weeks to continue to improve, and build on what I think was a respectable and interesting premier episode filled with potential. The show definitely has a challenge in front of it to make watching 6 unknowns play each week, but ultimately I think the bells and whistles are there to hold people's interest. The MansionPoker.net PokerDome challenge airs Sunday nights at 11pm on FSN.
Ed Note: Sign up for MansionPoker today, and win a seat on the 'Poker Dome Challenge' for as little as a penny.