In case you haven't heard, poker news programming finally hit mainstream television with the debut of "Poker2Nite" on the Fox Sports Network. Hosted by Ultimate Bet pro and PokerRoad.com mastermind Joe Sebok and industry veteran Scott Huff, this new program is set to bring poker to the masses. PokerNews recently caught up with the "Batman and Robin" of the poker television world to get their thoughts on the new show.
How did the Fox gig come about?
Sebok: When I first got involved with Ultimate Bet, we started discussing different projects, and it was something that made sense because we’ve done so much radio work with "The Circuit," "Pokerwire" and now PokerRoad. We thought there was an opportunity to take what we were doing and make it bigger. Obviously, no one has done anything like this on television yet, so it was logical to try to cook up some sort of news show that we could do in our own voice that would entertain the masses.
What can fans expect from the show?
Huff: They can probably expect a certain amount of what they have come to expect from PokerRoad. We’re trying to make it as fun as possible, but we’re also trying to give viewers something of value first and foremost. A lot of people don’t get the inside stuff on poker or they may not understand the jokes we make on PokerRoad and that stuff won’t fly now on a national TV show so it will be interesting. Fans can expect us to continue to promote poker in the most positive light possible while giving good news and giving people something they will actually be able to take away from it. I think they can expect it to be fairly funny since we have PokerRoad writer Joe Stapleton as our writer so people can expect some of the PokerRoad humor as well as some good interviews. It’s not an interview format show, but we get five minutes a week so we should be able to get some good stuff for those segments.
After having spent so much time in the media doing poker programming, is it vindicating to have a platform on national television and access to mainstream audiences?
Sebok: I don’t know if vindicating is the right word. I don’t think Huff, Stapleton or I didn’t get respect so I don’t think that’s a big deal. It is a lot of fun to see this become a reality. In the early days, we talked about doing our own company, which we’ve done now and we also talked about doing a TV show, which we are about to do. I think the show is just another step in the long process and we’re having fun with it. We’re trying to make poker more accessible to a broader audience while keeping it fun. For me, it’s a natural step and I’m excited about it, there is no question.
Huff: For me, it’s vindicating because the only way for me to continue to be successful in life is to make fake rivals that I fight against on a day-to-day basis. For those out there that are my fake rivals, I do feel vindicated. Seriously, it’s nice to have a bigger forum to present all of our stuff to. I think we’ve done a good job of making poker entertaining. It’s something we do very well. The real question is whether or not that will translate to a mass audience. It will be interesting to see whether that works out. If it works out, I don’t know whether it will be vindicating, but it will certainly be satisfying. If it doesn’t work out, then we’ll know that poker players don’t care that much about the sport’s success. We’re going to make people care about poker, that’s our job.
Sebok: I think one of the interesting things will be trying to find that balance. We’ve always had this kind of insular audience where everyone gets the inside jokes and everyone understands what we are talking about so we can go off on tangents. This is going to be a challenge because we’ll have to find middle ground between our jokes and the witty way we try to say things while providing solid content. I’ll feel vindicated if we can get more people to become a part of the game.
You mentioned talking about having a TV show early on, so what is it like watching the dream become a reality and do you feel pressure to live up to the expectations?
Huff: It’s kind of frightening. It is tough to fill a poker show week-in and week-out. Every single time I’ve ever been put in a position that requires me to do something on a weekly basis it is a real challenge. It never seems like there is enough content and you always feel like you are going to fall short. Somehow it always comes together. That is the pressure I feel right now. If the show is successful, how do you fill a month like August? How do you feel Seebs?
Sebok: A lot of pressure comes with having to fill these shows on a weekly basis, so it forces us to rely on the personality portion of the show. We’re going to have to find a way to be entertaining while delivering this stuff. We have to make people laugh and have a good time and that is always a challenge. Truthfully, I feel like I’m feeling the pressure a lot more than Huff or Stapes because they’ve both been working in the entertainment industry for a long time. While I’ve been doing poker media, TV is a different foray, and it is definitely bigger than doing radio. I’m definitely nervous. I’ve been trying to get them to coach me and teach me little tricks so I can do it better. One of the cool things that so many people have said to me is "You know Seebs, this is really good for poker," so that adds a little pressure as well. People are always looking for the game to expand and to try to draw more people in so since this is the first TV show of its kind I feel some of that pressure.
How long is the show’s initial run scheduled for?
Sebok: 13 episodes. We’ll be shooting Tuesday and the episode will air Wednesday. Every week after that for the following 12 weeks will have an episode. Hopefully, we’ll get picked up and we’ll be able to develop the show even more.
Make sure to check out PokerNews tomorrow for the rest of the interview with the "Poker2Nite" hosts and don't forget to watch the first episode of the show this Wednesday on the Fox Sports Network (FSN). Check your cable company for local listings.