With the numerous poker programs that populate the television landscape, you had to figure that other casino games could potentially make their way to the airwaves. The draw of many casino games is, after all, in the factor of their excitement, drama and action. SpikeTV tried to do just that earlier this year with their show 'King Of Vegas' and now an major American television network is about to do the same.
CBS is slated to start the first season commitment to bringing what many consider the "next big thing" for sports entertainment broadcasting in the Ultimate Blackjack Tour. While it may seem that CBS was behind the trend when it came to poker (while they broadcast World Series of Poker highlights in the late 1970's, their only recent contribution to televised poker was the just completed Intercontinental Poker Championship), they don't seem to want to miss the bus regarding blackjack; they have committed to not just the first season, which starts September 16th at 2PM (Eastern Time) but to a second season that will run in Spring 2007.
"CBS is the perfect partner for this venture," said UBT executive producer, Houston Curtis. "After meeting with the top broadcast and cable outlets in the country, we consider it the ultimate validation of our concept to be associated with one of the world's foremost leaders in sports programming."
The concept of the game is what is being called "Elimination Blackjack" which pairs the skill of blackjack with the elimination factor of poker. Every eight hands, one of the competitors are eliminated from the table, which places a premium on aggression and strategy as the tournament plays out. Once the table is worked down, there is a final "secret bet" that determines the winner of each stage of the tournament. At stake in the event is a cool $1 million.
"Poker has gone crazy," said Phil Hellmuth, the ten-time WSOP Champion. "Now you have another tournament game of skill. The UBT is going to be huge." Annie Duke also seemed enthused by the new challenge as she stated, "The UBT has figured out how to make blackjack exciting for television and I'm absolutely hooked. It was a blast to play and equally exciting to watch."
The ten episodes that will run starting in September will feature not only the best from the blackjack world but will also draw heavily from the poker world as well. Blackjack champions Ken Einiger is joined by fellow blackjack professionals "Hollywood" Dave Stann, Anthony Curtis and Monica Reeves and they have a very difficult field to work their way through. Poker professionals are going to be a big part of the tournament, including former World Champions Russ Hamilton and Hellmuth, Phil "The Unabomber" Laak, Jennifer Tilly and Duke.
For the second season of the Ultimate Blackjack Tour, there are plans in the works to make it a true tournament championship. Players can learn how to play the game (if they aren't versed in the skills of blackjack) at playubt.com and average citizens will be able to earn the right to participate in the second season of the UBT. There are even thoughts that this could evolve into a World Poker Tour-type series, but there are potential roadblocks to that.
On August 10th, the UBT filed a lawsuit against the cable broadcasting outlet GSN regarding the changes they were making to their "World Series of Blackjack" series. Allegedly, after a presentation from the UBT that featured their innovations, GSN lifted some of those elements from what the UBT has a patent on. The UBT is looking to block GSN from producing any blackjack related material and, as of yet, there hasn't been a resolution to this potential problem.
Even with the current litigation, the Ultimate Blackjack Tour will hit the airwaves come September 16th in what could be a very entertaining series. Early previews have shown the action to be fast paced and (especially with "Hollywood" Dave and Hellmuth) potentially combustible! For more information on the show, or to learn how to become a part of the show, visit playubt.com.