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Recording for season five of one of televised poker’s finest shows has just wrapped up at the Golden Nugget casino in Las Vegas. NBC’s Poker After Dark will air 13 new shows over thirteen weeks in 2009. Well known for its single table sit and go format, with the occasional cash game added for variety, this season sees cash come more to the fore.

Each tournament, once again, carries a $20,000 buy-in and will feature six of poker’s finest players competing for the winner-takes-all first prize. The first of these to be announced contains one of the best lineups ever assembled at a poker table, with Chris Ferguson, Howard Lederer, Doyle Brunson, Daniel Negreanu, Phil Ivey and Phil Hellmuth competing. NBC is calling them “The Magnificent Six.”

As with previous iterations, each table is built around a particular theme, for example the forthcoming “U.S.A vs. Italy” table. The transatlantic battle will see Chris Ferguson, Howard Lederer and Eric Lindgren compete for the U.S.A. against the Italian trio of Max Pexcartori, Marco Traniello and pint sized marvel Dario Minieri. Stars from outside the poker universe will gather at the tables with some of their pro-player mentors in another high-concept sit and go. Former MLB pitcher Orel Hershiser made waves at this year’s NBC National Heads-Up Poker Championship when he fought his way past Ted Forrest, Allen Cunningham and Freddy Deeb to make it into the quarter finals. Hershiser attributes much of his success to the coaching he received from Gavin Smith.  These two will compete against Jason Alexander and Barry Greenstein, as well as Don Cheadle and Phil Gordon.

The third edition of “International Week” looks set to feature some of the world’s most explosive talent, with reigning WSOPE champion John Juanda and red-hot star John Phan, joined by the likes of WSOP main event and WSOPE final tabler Ivan Demidov. Forty-four year old amateur Arnold Thimons has been given the chance to choose his Dream Table, allowing him to pit his wits against Phil Laak, Jennifer Tilly, Mike Matusow, Johnny Chan and Daniel Negreanu.

The newly resurgent cash games will also see their fair share of high stakes action, with blinds at $200/$400, a minimum buy-in of $100,000 and a maximum buy-in of $200,000.

The first of these tables will see a return of the “Nets vs Vets” format, where successful online pros face up against some of poker’s old hands. Three instructors – Taylor Caby, Cole South and David Benefield – will put their money on the line against Doyle Brunson, Gabe Kaplan and Eli Elezra. “The Hellmuth Bash” will see a poker-brat centric cash game take up two whole weeks of programming as the 11 time bracelet winner faces off against Tom Dwan, Antonio Esfandiari, Phil Laak, Kenny Tran and Bob Safai. More cash games including players such as Phil Ivey, Howard Lederer and Gus Hansen complete the full list of Poker After Dark Season 5 tables.

In addition, three matches that were filmed for season 4, but never aired, will kick-off the new run on December 29th. Leeann Tweeden will return as the hostess and Ali Nejad as the commentator.