Poker in Vegas often goes hand in hand with the glitz and glamor of showbiz, but rarely, if ever, do some of the top poker pro’s in the world take to the stage themselves. That was exactly what happened on Tuesday night at the Venetian, as the new poker-themed entertainment show, The Real Deal, had its premiere.
Hosted by Vegas funny-man Vinny Favorito, well known for meting out his ruthless humor to all comers, the show saw a whole host of players take to the stage to show off their skills. Featured throughout the show’s run will be pros such as Doyle Brunson, Scotty Nguyen, Antonio Esfandiari, Phil Laak, Jennifer Harman, Todd Brunson, Gavin Smith and Eli Elezra. And to start the proceedings with a bang, they all took to the stage alongside the night’s stars, Phil Hellmuth and Daniel Negreanu.
The two poker illuminati sat down at the on-stage table with a selection of the elder statesmen of America’s screens stars. Entertainers such as Bob Newhart, Tim Conway, Don Johnson, Robert Wagner, and Steve Lawrence had the chance to play poker against the best in the business. Also featured on stage was actress and poker pro Jennifer Tilly, as well as cowboy-hat-wearing co-host Kenna James.
As exciting as that sounds, up until now all that distinguishes this from a TV show is Favorito’s wisecracks. What makes the spectacle a thrill for the audience is that they can play along with the stars on the stage. Via the use of hand-held touchscreen computers, audience members were encouraged to choose whether to bet or fold on particular hands. Points were awarded for good decisions as well as for guessing correctly on a number of poker prop bets that came up during the night. Betting on the color or suit of the flop, among other things, allowed them to climb a leaderboard that was displayed all night long.
As the evening drew to a close the top audience competitor was invited up on stage to compete against a poker maestro – in this case, poker incarnate, Doyle Brunson. The most lucrative part of the night came when 52-pick’em was unveiled. Audience members were asked to pick 5 cards at random from 52 displayed face down and if they made a top hand be rewarded with fabulous prizes. In the unlikely event that anyone pulled a royal flush they stood to win an amazing $1 million.
The live show is running from Tuesdays to Sundays at the Venetian Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.