NBC's Poker After Dark

Poker After Dark is NBC's latest foray into the televised poker market. After their successes with the National Headsup Championship and the pre-Superbowl tournament from two years ago, it's no surprise they are back in the poker business.

Poker After Dark pits 6 poker pros (or high stakes "celeb" players) in a week long $20,000 buyin single table winner take all tournament. The show is on NBC weeknights after the Conan O'Brien show and there is a recap "Director's Cut" of the prior week on Saturday's after Saturday Night Live. You may also watch the archived episodes on NBCSports.com under the poker tab.

The production values on this show are first rate, the editing is first rate and the show looks very good. Of course the return of former World Poker Tour hostess Shana Hiatt doesn't hurt. Shana has more to do on this show than on the WPT as she gets to comment on the table action and interview the players during the tournament (not only when they bust out).

As of this review, there have been two weeks of the show and the list of players that have played is a who's who of the poker world. Week one featured Phil Hellmuth, Annie Duke, Huck Seed, Steve Zolotow, Gus Hansen and Shawn Sheikhan; if that wasn't enough heavy hitters for you, week two featured Daniel Negreanu, Doyle Brunson, Mike Matusow, David Grey, Gabe Kaplan, and Jerry Buss.

This show is unique in that there are none of the typical poker announcers commenting on all aspects of the hand, there is a mysterious of camera voice that makes sporadic commentary but it isn't too intrusive; however most of the comments are meant to be jokes which are generally not very funny. This lack of commentary allows the viewer to hear the poker players banter back and forth; which is sometimes interesting and sometimes not so interesting (seriously David Grey, no one wants to hear you sing).

If that show has any weakness, it's that the $20K buyin and subsequent $120K payout isn't big enough to keep the high stakes players all that interested (even though it is the player's own money). They all seem to make "last longer" bets (when you bet that you will survive a tournament longer than the other player) to spice up the game. It's as if they are on the show to just promote themselves or whichever online site they are affiliated. This minor weakness isn't enough to spoil my enjoyment of the show.

If you're a poker fan or an insomniac; definitely give this show a look. You can also win your way onto the show through special tournaments on Full Tilt Poker.

Review by Donald Key.

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