Televised poker looked like it might be on its last legs in mid-2008. The future for two of the genre’s stalwarts, High Stakes Poker and the World Poker Tour, seemed uncertain at best. Now, in the early days of 2009, things are all change. The WPT and Poker After Dark recently began their new seasons, with the new episodes of High Stakes Poker set to air later in the year. And today there was even more good news for fans of TV poker, after it was announced that the Ultimate Bet sponsored Best Damn Poker Show would return for a second series.
The production puts a reality show twist on the classic formula, pitting 24 amateur hopefuls against each other as they compete to avoid elimination and win the overall event. To help them along their way two poker luminaries will be on hand to provide detailed intense training – UB sponsored players Annie Duke and Phil Hellmuth. To increase the rivalry, each pro will be given a distinct set of players to teach, with the two competing to see who can train the best players.
The calibre of the coaches is without doubt first class. Phil Hellmuth is one of the most successful tournament players in history, holding a record 11 WSOP bracelets as well as numerous other tournament titles. His explosive personality has also made him a favorite guest on poker shows across the networks. Annie Duke also has a WSOP bracelet to her name, as well as over $1 million in lifetime tournament earnings. Ultimate Bet will be relishing the opportunity to showcase the two most high profile names on their books, as repairing the damage done to their image by the recent cheating scandal. It has not been all plain sailing at UB in recent weeks either – with countless players on the rail, Phil Hellmuth was seen to drag a huge pot that he had not won.
What success might await any potential victor is unclear, although series one winner Tracy Scala was signed to the UB’s Star Players Team, which includes names such as WSOP main event last woman standing Tiffany Michelle. The chance to become a sponsored player may have seemed a long way off when contestants were asked to submit videos explaining to the producers why it was that they should be chosen for the show. Although this is an interesting (if not unique) idea, a recent press release has revealed that most of the contestants were plucked from this years WSOP. Best Damn Poker Show producers were on hand to seek out the most promising televised talent for inclusion on the show.
The first of seven episodes will be broadcast on the Fox Sports Network (also home to the WPT) on January 12th. The program will start at 9pm in all timezones, with repeats running throughout the week. For those fans who want to delve further into proceedings, exclusive bonus footage will be periodically available online.