Monday, September 26, 2005

"Joker Poker"

Carlos: I'm curious, Mr. Delaney. How did you get the money?
Michael: I guess you could say I sold my soul.
Carlos: Yeah, I see a lot of that.

I have played about 20 minutes of poker over the last week, which was a good session but that’s really beside the point. I can’t see myself playing much either for the next month as the wedding season has officially begun. We have had visitors at our house all week and more are due this week, making spare time very sparse.

My one session was a quick $1/$2 NL game, where I doubled up on a well played hand that I can not remember now. That’s right…Maybe it wasn’t as well played as I thought. I had AQh and it was raised to $8 by early position, who was a little loose and aggressive. I called and we were heads up. The flop was all small with one heart, and he lead out with another $10 bet in the $19 pot. I had about $24-$30 left and decided to push, which I thought would induce a fold. If he had AK or a pocket pair though, I was in trouble. Could he call with Ace high? I doubt it, but you never know. Anyway, he thought about it and decided to call with KQ. No miracle king, and I managed to double up and book a nice little profit for myself.

Poker on TV this week, and the first ever Australian poker television show debuted on Saturday night. “Joker Poker” held at Star City Casino here in Sydney showcases Australian comedians competing for charity. I have heard many complaints about “Celebrity Poker Showdown”, but surely they could not be worse than this show.

Firstly, the show combines “jokers” with poker. That is, comedians and poker play, so who does this appeal to? Fans of the comedians and fans of poker. Great, problem is they never advertised who the comedians would be, and secondly they were not trying to crack any jokes as the games went on. And as for the poker? Well, none of the four (yes, a four person “tournament” each week. Guess they couldn’t find enough comedians on short notice) knew anything about poker, so it was bad. I mean, it’s not their fault they don’t have the experience in the game, but you’d think they would have been given a quick tutorial at least. On one hand, three get to see the flop and then first to act quickly folds, and then so did second to act. It doesn’t take much for someone to say “You can check for nothing you know” to save this embarrassing situation.

It was also annoying that the dealer doubled as the announcer, asking for the blinds every hand and reminding them yet again what the blinds were. Speaking of the blinds, a representative of the casino would come out and announce the blind raise when it happened – a task that could be done by the commentators or just a graphic on the screen. But he had his 5 minutes on camera, so good on him. Tool.

The commentators did their best, and their shortcomings were not their fault. Adam Spencer, a good local comedian and former breakfast radio host did his best, but it was obvious he is not a poker enthusiast. For example, on one flop the lead off bet out the minimum $200 and Spencer said “That’s called limping in, isn’t it Lee?” to which his co host replied “Actually it isn’t…” Like I said, not so much Adam Spencer’s fault, but this does limit any credibility the show could have. But what else puzzled me was this wasn’t a live show – can’t a mistake like that be picked up and changed? It’s called editing! Why make your host into a fool for such blunders, give him a chance at credibility!

His co-host was Lee Nelson, a poker pro from New Zealand who has had a fair amount of success and a book or two under his belt. He did a really good job, he was excited enough and any advice/reasoning he gave for a play or what he would do in any given situation was quick and too the point, as well as being easy to understand. He was a very good poker commentator, but my gripe with him is he seemed to forget to look at the camera at all when he was talking, and it was like he was having a conversation with only one person, not an audience. Not a big deal really, but I noticed it.

They did the usual “This is how Texas holdem is played” tutorial at the start of the show, which I can understand. What I don’t understand is why they used footage from the event we were about to watch to illustrate the hands – because it gave away the result of the event in the first five minutes! We already knew which two players were going to end up heads before the first hand was dealt.

And the tournament itself was a shambles. Only four players? I can understand if they want to get the show over in an hour of TV time, but it was a bit of a joke. Secondly, for that 60 minutes we saw 8 hands, of which 6 or 7 had an all-in. Ok, so they edit down the play because they can’t show every hand, but this meant that between ad breaks we would see two hands of action. Oh, and the entire tournament lasted 16 hands. Not 16 that they showed, 16 all up. One player got a good run of cards (including Kings over queens when the other player had queens over tens) and knocked out the other three in succession. He also made the only joke for the entire program, when they went all-in when heads up…”I’m just busting for a piss break!”. Was pretty funny at the time.

So in summary, “Joker Poker” showcases alleged comedians playing alleged poker, combined with a thinly veiled advertisement for the local casino wrapped up with poor production values. It has no appeal for the comedy fans, no appeal for the poker fans, and will be yet another aborted local TV show in the very near future. It was an expected disappointment.

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