Poker already is reality TV!

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As a Poker TiVo Junkie I realize I should want as many poker shows to air as possible, but shouldn’t we draw the line somewhere? Out of Los Angeles comes word of a program called Lucky Pro 7, a reality show that pits seven amateur female poker players against each other. They’ll ultimately play in tournaments as cameras capture their every move on the way to poker “stardom.” There’s no word yet on whether these ladies will be living together in the same house (a la Big Brother with producers praying for catfights) or teaming up against each other like Survivor, complete with those whiny isolated interviews: “When Cindy check-raised me I knew she was a bitch!”

But doesn’t the mere game of poker qualify as reality television? Shouldn’t watching a tournament be entertaining enough? When Phil Hellmuth calls Orlando’s Adam Levy an idiot at the World Series of Poker on ESPN doesn’t that hold your attention?

Believe it or not there are other reality poker shows, including David “Devilfish” Ulliot’s How to Become a Poker Millionaire. That show, thankfully, only aired in the U.K., but if you’re truly sadistic you can find it on the Web. And poker players have been popping up in other reality shows. Annie Duke guest-starred as one of the “mob” in 1 vs. 100, Antonio Esfandiari and Phil Laak star in I Bet You, and who could forget Jean-Robert Bellande in Survivor: China? This kind of gradual slide into pop culture is fine by me, but a full-fledged reality poker show just puts our game one step closer to cliché.

If there’s going to be a reality poker show, why not go over the top? My show would star Layne “Back to Back” Flack, Scotty “The Prince of Poker” Nguyen, Hollywood’s Michael “The Grinder” Mizrachi, Mike “The Mouth” Matusow and Scott “I’m not in The Crew anymore” Fischman. Here’s the voiceover that opens the show: “This is the true story … of five former dealers turned poker pros … picked to live in a mansion on Dean Martin Drive in Las Vegas … who work together and have their lives taped … to find out what happens … when poker players stop being pros … and start dealing cards …The Deal World.”
Poker millionaires return to the felt to deal cards for drunken tourists who give them attitude at the $2-4 limit tables? That’s ratings gold! And what about the alliances? Nguyen and Matusow are buds, but Flack and Fischman are Matusow’s Full Tilt brethren. Watch Nguyen and Flack jockey for Matusow’s favor. And while all of this is coming to a head, Grinder plays practical jokes on everyone, hiding Matusow’s meds and drinking Nguyen’s Michelob Light. “Where the f*ck is my cocktail, baby?!”

Fischman, who in real life stopped dealing because of severe rheumatoid arthritis, in a twist only reality shows can provide, gets promoted to floor manager to become everyone’s boss. Hilarity ensues as a coup d’etat is executed to get Fischman fired. The first person to make poker room manager wins $1 million! And, in true TV network fashion, the players put up the prize money but never see one red cent of the revenue generated from incredible ratings.

What’s next, a poker drama? I can see it now: Las Vegas 89109. It stars Daniel Negreanu, Evelyn Ng, Jennifer Harman, Todd Brunson and introducing Adam Schoenfeld as Ng’s brooding ex-boyfriend.

Adam blames Evy’s past relationship with Daniel as the reason they split and he then goes on a bender. And when Daniel asks Evy to write a chapter for his new book all hell breaks loose. Jennifer confides in Todd that she’s jealous she wasn’t asked to write a chapter because, after all, she is Daniel’s best friend. But Todd, who used to date Jennifer, is torn. He, too, was asked to write a chapter! (dum-dum-dummmm) So, in an effort to deflect her pressing questions, Todd affectionately reminisces with her about the old days. Marco Traniello, who makes a guest appearance as Jennifer’s husband, walks in on Jen and Todd hugging it out. Will this tangled web ever be unwoven? What will happen when Marco contacts Todd’s wife in an effort to level the playing field? Tune in next week when we learn …

Um, remember when I mentioned a need for a line to be drawn when it comes to poker on TV? I think I just crossed it.

WSOP COVERAGE: Hats off to Lon McEachern, Norman Chad and the ESPN crew for putting together the final-table show in less than two days’ time. The announcing duo was in perfect form and never missed a beat. Years from now, when that episode is in its 2,794th showing on ESPN Classic and everyone has forgotten about the 117-day delay, viewers will watch this episode and think nothing of it, as if it were just like all of the other WSOP episodes they’ve watched.

— Email chris@anteupmagazine.com and tell me your poker reality show ideas … or better yet, don’t.