Well the taping of the Mansion Poker.com Poker Dome Pro-Am Challenge is in the can. Or rather the tape is probably in the editing room as I write this, they have just a few days to pull together the 100+ hours of footage to make the four hour show that premiers Wednesday July 12th on the Fox Sports Network. I will not be revealing the winner of the Pro-Am event in this article. So feel free to read along and not have the suspense spoiled.
I will tell you that the results are not what you would expect when three big time pros (John Gale, Gavin Smith & Todd Brunson) square off against three online qualifiers. Not so unlikely, right? Luck of the cards, a speed tournament, and the amateurs begin with a chip advantage (50K for pros versus 70K for amateurs). Yes, all of those things were true but the fact is there was some great poker played, there were several crushing bad beats and I mean crushing! Add to this the professional coaches the online qualifiers had helping them (Michael Gracz, Kenna James, Tony G.), this should make for very entertaining television. The payout is $500K for first, $300K for second, $200K for third with the coaches getting a small cut if an amateur makes it into the top three. One more interesting aspect of this entire event, the game here is Pot Limit Hold'em before the flop, No Limit after the flop.
Let's go back a day or two for the whole experience of the amateur players. They had three very full days of poker and television once they arrived in Las Vegas. I was able to spend some time with Andy Stoll and his coach Tony G. during the prep for the television event. Day one was, as Andy said: "A lot of taking video of me doing the same thing in lots of different places in Las Vegas." Day one also including a classroom session with Tony G. at the New Poker Dome facility in downtown Las Vegas. This was a blackboard session, which allowed Tony to get a feel for Andy's game and a first chance to talk about how six-handed speed poker against three professionals would be different from Andy's experience both online and in home games.
Day Two involved a session at a "speed" table with Andy and three Mansion players and Coach Tony with a monitor to view Andy's hole cards. I strongly recommend that the Mansion folks make another deal with Tony, Kenna and Michael to release these sessions on CD. The advice the pros gave came so fast, I am sure the amateurs could not take it all in, but it was truly amazing insight into the game. In Tony's case, he would have the dealer do several flops into the same dealt hands and quiz Andy on the changes in his betting, raising or folding moves. Here are just a few of Tony's coaching tips:
"After a mistake or a bad beat, we play the next hand that is all we do. The other hand is over; we are focused on the hand in front of us. Do the replay after we have won."
"Who are we pressuring? Fold hands to the big stack that you would jam the short stack with."
"It's four handed we are almost in the money, if we get timid we lose."
"Remember these are not your friends, they are all trying to take your money. If you want to talk to them, do it after the show."
Kenna James and Michael Gracz sessions with their protégés and the advice and coaching were just as direct, informative and lively. It's a real shame that so much of this truly insightful commentary will end up on the cutting room floor.
On Day Three, the actual playing and taping day, we had quite a bit of time while the set was isolated, make-up was applied, microphones attached etc. I spend that time in the green room talking with Gavin and Michael Gracz while they played Chinese Poker. A question came up about Gavin's side bets on the Series. He has several. First, is the superhero bet with Joe Sebok, we have covered that one earlier and will, of course, be reporting on the results on Day One of the Main Event. Gavin also has two connected side bets: he has 5-1 odds that he will win one bracelet this year and 20-1 he will win two. Todd Brunson was shocked that he would risk any money on a two win bet but Gavin pointed out:
"When I win the first bracelet at 5-1, I am free rolling the 20-1 bet. Once you win one, you are odds favorite to collect on the second, its just pot odds."
Todd replied: "Right if you fly to the moon once, your odds are much better on making it there a second time."
The actual shooting of the Pro-Am event was done in two studios. The players were in the sound proof Poker Dome while we were seated with the coaches in the "locker room" where we could see the hole cards and hear the coach's comments, screams, yells, moans, and whimpers. All in all a great way to watch the match. You see there was this hand with two pair Kings and Sevens versus…… oops! Sorry you will have to wait for show to see that hand. Don't miss it!
That's it from the Poker Dome Pro-Am Challenge, tomorrow it's the $5,000 NLHE event back at the Rio and the World Series of Poker.
The Poker Dome online experience continues Mansion Poker with three more tapings of the regular show this weekend. Many of us in the media will be attending the Sunday taping as one of our own, Jen Leo, will be playing against five other online qualifiers for $25,000 and a seat in the $1,000,000 Poker Dome Final. Good Luck, Jen.