NBC's popular "Poker After Dark" series returns with its fourth season of episodes beginning July 14th. Season IV of "PAD" promises to break the tradition established by the highly popular late-night series in its first three seasons, where it offered a revolving mix of poker's biggest names in six-handed freezeouts.
PAD's fourth season expands the show's horizons. The debut episode of the upcoming season features high-stakes, no-limit cash game play as opposed to the series' traditional freezeout format, wherein most of the weekly challenges offered a $120,000, winner-take-all prize to a single player.
Instead, the July 14 episode kicks off new territory for the show. It's a full week of high-stakes cash-game action featuring a lineup of diverse but impressive talent. In seat order, the six chairs will be occupied by online-turned-live-play phenom, 21-year-old Tom "durrrr" Dwan; 11-time WSOP bracelet winner Phil Hellmuth; high-stakes, part-time cash-gamer Mike Baxter; five-time WSOP bracelet winner Allen Cunningham; Cirque de Soleil CEO Guy Laliberte; and cash game veteran David "Viffer" Peat.
Dwan and Hellmuth have a (very brief) bit of poker history on NBC, since the two squared off in Round 1 of the 2008 National Heads-Up Poker Championship. Courtesy of a bad beat, Dwan defeated Hellmuth in just three hands, the shortest match in NHUPC history. They and the other four players – including Cunningham, who will be making his televised cash-game debut here – promise to get the new season off to a lively start.
The debut week's new cash-game format has the players starting with blinds of $200/400, with, according to the show's press statements, plenty of straddles and prop bets. The minimum buy-in is $100,000, the maximum $250,000, and the mimimum for rebuys is $50,000.
Leeann Tweeden also makes her debut as the series' new host in the July 14 premiere. The first episode airs late night Monday, at 2:05 a.m. ET on July 14 (technically early Tuesday a.m.), with five episodes airing on consecutive nights at the same time. As in previous seasons, a special "Director's Cut" episode airs late Saturday night (technically 1:00 a.m. ET Sunday morning), following "Saturday Night Live." Each day's show will also be available for same-day viewing at www.nbcsports.com/poker.
A second week of cash-game action is scheduled for this fall on PAD. That week's episodes, starting October 13, will feature Patrik Antonius, Dee Tiller, Howard Lederer, Doyle Brunson, Gabe Kaplan, and Eli Elezra.