Judge Ryan Keefer knows that gambling really is like Matthew Brock says from that song; "you gotta know when to fold them, you've gotta know how to hold them."
"May all your cards be live, and your pots be monster!"
Well, the fine folks from World Poker Tour (combined with the equally fine folks at The Travel Channel) have come back for more bluffs, more check-raises and more stealing the blinds. There are several shows featuring poker on the market for those curious about the art of the bluff, and it appears that the other networks are realizing what ESPN has known for several years; that poker is fairly compelling to watch, even more so when there's hundreds of thousands of dollars on the line. Is Season Three a royal flush (a good thing) or an all in bet against trip Queens (a bad thing)?
Facts of the Case
Season Two's set was absolutely choked full of poker action, consuming eight discs worth of time and effort. Making things convenient is that each show covers the final table of players, because extended coverage could quite possibly last days. Season Three is slightly scaled back from the Season Two release, and holds only four discs, with two tournaments on each. They are:
• Bicycle Casino's Legends of Poker (Los Angeles, CA)
What helps make the game an enjoyable endeavor for even the smallest fan is that anyone has a chance to excel in it? With the large infusion of amateur players in the fold now (something the professionals have been salivating over), there are more opportunities for them to enter and even win. On a couple of finals tables during Season Three of the tour, there were amateur players who won smaller tournaments with as little as $10, which allowed them to enter a Tour event and get to the finals. The established players had no problem with paying the $10,000 entry fee of course. In one tournament, any amateur player who managed to eliminate a professional was given $5,000, on the spot. If any of this still doesn't provide an incentive to learn how to play, what will?
To quickly sum up the craze of No-Limit Texas Hold 'Em Poker (which has got to be a derivative of the cigars and martinis fad from several years back), each player is dealt two cards. With those cards, and five community cards, you try to make the best poker hand available with five cards. You take turns betting against other players, and the winner has the best hand. For brevity's sake, I won't go into which hands are better than others. You read the internet; you can find those tools on your own. Or better yet, feel free to ask Ben Affleck (Dogma), James Woods (Salvador), Matthew Perry (Friends) or Tobey Maguire (Spider-Man). You can even ask Gabe Kaplan (Welcome Back Kotter) who, after finishing fifth in a recent tournament, answered my long-standing question of "what the heck is Gabe Kaplan doing nowadays?"
Things kick off rather appropriately on the set, as one of the legends, the over 70-year-old Doyle Brunson, is showcased. He wrote a book entitled "Super System" that is widely regarded as the sport's Holy Grail. It calculates pot odds for each hand you receive, how to bet, what to bet, what drinks to order, you name it. He has made enough money playing poker for over four decades, that he could probably buy a modest sized country if he wanted to. Among the other more notable names and faces of the Tour are Phil Ivey, who is compared somewhat favorably as the "Tiger Woods of Poker" and hasn't even turned 30; self-described "Poker Brat" and nine-time World Series of Poker champion Phil Hellmuth, and Danish champion Gus Hansen.
Hosted by Mike Sexton, who has contributed to numerous Poker magazines through the years, and Vince Van Patten (Rock 'n' Roll High School), the broadcasts are pretty smooth, and Sexton's play by play is engaging and enthusiastic, when it has to be. The eye candy for the mostly male demographic for the show is Shana Hiatt, a former model. To its credit, the Tour has made things easily accessible for the novice player, compared to some of the other poker shows currently on TV. Any slang that you may hear from Sexton or Van Patten come with almost immediate captions that explain just what the heck was said. The obligatory pot odds are shown, along with any possibility of ties, which are explained as well, along with the last action by each player. To help kill some of the time, the players on the tour are included with brief interview footage that is edited in between hands, which helps to provide the viewer identify with the player a little more.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Even with 13 hours of features covering any aspect that you could think of, Season Three of World Poker Tour is not comprehensive. At least one episode is missing that I know of, perhaps more. But that's why it's called The Best of Season Three, I suppose. The other thing that is slightly discouraging about the show is that is doesn't cater to the brand new poker enthusiast. You will have to have a basic grasp of the game in order to appreciate it.
If you're a seasoned player who is watching these discs for some "scouting reports" on the stars that you would like to play against one day, this set helps prepare you for the pressure that you're up against. If you come back from the tables with no money for food or a trip home, you're on your own.
For beginners, the World Poker Tour gets time served and is free to go. For intermediate and advanced players, the show's producers are found not guilty, and sentenced to showing the Judge on how to better improve his poker playing.
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