Thursday, May 31, 2012

Playing on TV--well, sort of

My old computer has been driving me crazy with random crashes and shutdowns. The final straw for it was when one of its fans gave out and it started overheating, on top of its other problems. I decided it was time for a new one, which arrived yesterday. So last night and this afternoon were spent just getting everything set up the way I like it, cleaning out the bloatware, transferring files, downloading programs, etc.

That's what I was doing when a Tweet popped up from Bill Biddulph. You may know him from his long association with the Wednesday Afternoon Poker Discussion Group. He is now involved with a new poker enterprise, "The Final Table Experience." I had not heard of this company before, but apparently it's brand new, so I'm not too far behind the times.

Here's their deal: You and eight or nine of your friends can each pony up $249 (at least I think that's the price--but don't quote me), go into a television studio, and play a one-table poker tournament. FTE films it as if it were a WSOP final table: hole cards and winning percentages displayed on the screen, live commentary, bustout interviews, etc. The participants each go home with a DVD of the game.

Today they were set to film what was basically a demo to be run on continuous loop at their booth at the Rio (near the Poker Kitchen, I'm told) so that potential customers can see what the company is offering. They had a last-minute cancellation, so Bill trolled via Twitter for somebody to fill the seat. I didn't have any commitments and thought it might be an interesting new experience, so I told him I'd be there in time for the start, which was only about an hour later. They tape at a studio just south of the Palms, so basically two blocks away from the Rio.

There wasn't any prize money on tap for us (though I think they have some sort of non-monetary prize structure for paying customers), but we all chipped in $20 for a winner-take-all last-longer bet.

The only players I recognized were Bryan Micon (below, left) and John Kim (not pictured). The guy on the right below is "Seriously Sirius," who has become well-known in the poker world the last couple of years for his smart, well-produced music videos about whatever is in the poker news.

See those faint black circles on the felt in front of each player? There are RFID readers under the table there, and the cards have RFID chips embedded in them--which I found pretty amazing, since they were only marginally thicker than standard cards, and I couldn't feel anything lumpy or irregular about them. That's how the off-camera people know who is playing what. Bill does the commentary in real time. They have music playing at a moderate volume to prevent the players from hearing what he is saying. I suppose one could look over at him and try to lip-read, but I didn't try to angle-shoot that way.

The structure was ridiculously fast. I'm not sure if that is representative of what you get if you're paying for the experience, or was just for purposes of getting something on tape. We started with 8000 in chips and 100/200 blinds for 20 minutes, then ten-minute levels of 200/400, 300/600, 400/800.

I basically played only four hands:

1) Early in the game, John Kim min-raised to 400. I reraised to 1000 with A-Q offsuit from late position. He and two others called. The flop was, I think, 10-4-2 rainbow. They all checked to me, so I c-bet 2000. They all folded, though John took a long time to make his decision. He told me later that he had had J-J, which is perfectly plausible.

2) I stole the blinds once with a late-position raise, no callers.

3) The guy shown above (in the middle, just sitting down) got short-stacked and started shoving fairly light. About the third time he did this, I called him from one off the button with K-J. He had Q-10 suited, so I had, in fact, called with the best hand, but he flopped a queen and won. That took me down to a little over 6000.

4) I had 5900 left. It was the last hand of the 300/600 level. I was two off the button and everybody folded to me. With a reasonably tight image, less than ten big blinds, and facing having a stack of less than eight big blinds on the next hand, this felt like a spot with which one should shove any two cards. So I did. Unfortunately, my two cards were about as bad as they get: 9h-3h. Even more unfortunately, I got called by one of the worst possible hands to be up against: 9s-9c. I couldn't even say that I had two live cards. No miracle came, and I was the first one out. Oh well. I still think it was the right move.

It was interesting to get an up-close look at a new poker venture, and it was fun playing with lights and cameras, since that's not something I'm likely to have happen for real anytime soon in my poker career. The table chat was also sufficiently amusing. I tried to kick in a few laugh lines. When we were snickering about the strangeness of playing for no prize money (none officially, anyway), I queried whether FTE dollars were worth more or less than FTP dollars. When some of the others were talking about and showing off their chip tricks, I informed them that I was the inventor of online chip tricks. Oh, such witty repartee!

My understanding is that you'll see the resulting video playing at the Rio if you find their booth. I haven't seen it yet, obviously, so if you do, drop a comment here and let me know how it looks. Based on what I saw looking on from the sidelines for a few minutes after playing the role of Gigli, my guess is it's a very professional-looking, slick production. But I'm capable of looking dorky even under the most favorable circumstances, so I'm not expecting a call from any Hollywood agents.


Patrick said...

Sounds like a lot of fun! Thanks for sharing.

I've always wondered what it would be like to play in a situation like that and the RFID idea seems much better than the cameras.



grrouchie said...

This is a pretty cool concept and pretty cool that you got to be a test subject for a video that is going to be made fun of by tourists (and locals) for possibly years to come.

Bravo sir, I'm jealous!

Bumstead said...

Sounds pretty interesting. I wouldn't mind having my poker league do that, but I wouldn't want to do it under those blind levels. I think it would be cool if they showed our league playing under our parameters. We have been playing together for up to 5 years (2 live tournaments per month) so I think seeing on camera how people react would be quite interesting/"telling."

Stack said...

Interesting, but I do not think it will be a commercial success... just mho

I will check it out when I am in Vegas in a few weeks

Michael (@jinxclev) said...

I like the concept, but to me it would be like playing Zynga poker on Facebook with no real prize structure. I guess a group would have to be overly fascinated with seeing themselves on TV, while I guess there are some that would be that interested, there is a part of me that hopes that isn't really the case.