Rumors recently surfaced that Season V WPT Hostess Sabina Gadecki would not be returning for Season VI. For whatever reason, the World Poker Tour would be turning to its fourth hostess in four years. So far neither Courtney Friel or Sabina Gadecki have been able to fill the high-heeled shoes of Shana Hiatt.
The poker world would have to wait until the final table of the Mirage Poker Showdown before seeing the new hostess, but PokerNews caught up with her a day early as she taped her first segments for the WPT. We are pleased to announce that the new hostess is — drumroll, please — Layla Kayleigh.
The first question on the minds of most fans — how does Kayleigh compare to those who came before her?
Shana Hiatt (Seasons I-III) was the incredibly-hot-but-seemingly-accessible girl next door. Courtney Friel (Season IV) was the attractive broadcast journalist. And Sabina Gadecki (Season V) was our sweet and innocent younger sister. Layla Kayleigh (Season VI) creates a new category of WPT hostess — one that radiates sex appeal. Not just with her looks, but with her attitude and personality.
Born and raised in London to parents with a diverse ethnic background (she is a mix of Caucasian, African, Mediterranean, and Middle Eastern ancestry), this beautiful brunette will bring a bit of international flair to the World Poker Tour. While Layla is young (23 years old) and petite (5'3" tall), she's not innocent or naive — this is a girl who knows who she is and can take care of herself. She can be sexy without going too far, and vivacious without being an airhead.
She also has plenty of on-camera experience, serving as a host on MTV2 in Britain, and as a correspondent for ABC Football and "The Best Damn Sports Show Period." Layla currently hosts a segment called "The Feed" on the G4 network, where she reports on the latest tech news, and she can be heard weekly on the "Covino and Rich Show," which broadcasts on Sirius Maxim Radio. If that's not enough, she has a role in the upcoming film, "A Simple Promise," set to be released later this year.
In late 2005, she was tapped to be a political correspondent on Al Gore's fledgling cable network, Current TV. But when Current TV learned she had posed for a sexy spread in Maxim magazine, she was promptly fired. She later told Maxim that she had no regrets, pointing out that the network wasn't as progressive as it claimed, and that hers was "the voice of women who can be sexy, smart, and intelligent while posing in lingerie."
Layla's introduction to the poker world came in the summer of 2006, when she was invited to play in (and report on) a charity tournament sponsored by Stuff Magazine. She was a true poker rookie at that point, but after interviewing Jennifer Tilly, the actress/WSOP bracelet winner would spend three hours teaching Layla the basics of the game. Once the tournament began, Layla found herself seated next to the legendary Johnny Chan, and he took her under his wing that night and taught her some of the finer points of the game. The Tilly-Chan system served her well, and Layla played her way to the final table.
The World Poker Tour recently contacted her about potentially hosting their sixth season, and Layla went through five separate auditions, feeling less confident about her chances each time. To her surprise, she was offered the job, and she happily accepted. WPT Executive Vice President Robyn Moder calls Layla "energetic, intelligent and strikingly beautiful — the perfect combination to engage WPT fans."
Taping her first segments out in front of the Mirage Tuesday night, Layla is definitely comfortable in front of a camera. She thinks quickly on her feet, and seems to have a bit of an edge to her. If Sabina had a flaw at all, it was that she exuded purity and innocence — and poker isn't an innocent game. It's dark, and it has an edgy quality that makes it much cooler than games like chess or backgammon. Layla can tap into that edginess.
Tonight will be her first test as the new hostess, presiding over the first WPT final table of Season VI. Will she be able to crack Phil Ivey's media-proof shell? Can she get online pros Cory Carroll and Darrell Dicken to open up? Will she draw more viewers to the show when it switches to GSN? Ultimately, we won't know the answers until her episodes air, sometime in 2008. Layla knows that the previous two hostesses were let go after a single season, and she plans to work hard so she'll be asked back for Season VII.
Nobody will ever be able to fill Shana's shoes — she was one of a kind. But Shana has moved on to another show, so it's time we moved on as well. If we let Layla be herself, she could potentially do more for the show than even the return of Shana Hiatt.