Poker has gone mainstream in a big
way, and the third season of the World Poker Tour highlights just how
big the poker phenomenon has become. With record crowds at every
venue, and therefore with ever-larger amounts of prize money being
awarded to the champion, the WPT events showcased in the Best of
Season 3 are hotly contested. No-limit Texas Hold'em is an
exciting game to watch even if you're not a poker player yourself, so
seeing the "best of the best" at these six-person final
tables makes for very entertaining viewing.
Note: there are no spoilers in this
review (and in fact there are no spoilers in the DVD packaging or
menus, which is great.)
The overall presentation is the same
as in other poker tournament programs: we see the players at the
table, and thanks to the tiny camera built into each spot, we also
see their hole cards. The two commentators provide a running
discussion of what's going on, such as informing the viewer of what
cards a player needs to get in order to build a winning hand, and
on-screen graphics display the odds of each player winning the pot.
Taken all together, this means that the viewer is always fully
engaged with what's going on at the table. Newcomers to poker will
also find the "lingo" pop-ups to be helpful: these small
graphics (small enough to be ignored if you don't need them) appear
on-screen periodically to explain poker terms such as "gut-shot
straight draw" or "wired pair." Between the
informative pop-ups and the great play unfolding at the table, these
episodes constitute a solid poker education as well as a very
While the Best of Season 3
set obviously doesn't cover the entire season, the eight episodes
included here are all lots of fun to watch, and showcase a wide
variety of playing styles. In fact, each of the eight final tables in
the set has a quite distinctive feel to it, from the combination of
the different personalities and playing styles of the players at the
table. In a demonstration that poker really is a game of skill, we
see a lot of professionals at these final tables, and quite a few
familiar faces from other major poker events. It's also fun to see
that there are newcomers as well: rising stars in professional poker,
the occasional amateur, and a few players who made it to the WPT
event through a low-entry-fee satellite tournament. With the
combination of top dogs and underdogs, cocky players and low-key
players, there's always someone to root for.
There's one thing that really needs
to be done to make the World Poker Tour DVDs better, and that's to
edit them for the DVD. I don't mean cutting out any of the real
content... it's just that there is absolutely no need to put the
commercial-break logos and the "we'll be right back"
comments, not to mention the pointless "recap of the action so
far" clips. Since the chapter breaks are basically random, you
can't just skip ahead, so I ended up using the fast-forward button to
bypass the useless material and get back to the poker action. If this
material were edited out, it would make for a much smoother and more
polished presentation, rather than being an obvious straight TV to
The final tables presented in this
set come from seven WPT events and the WPT World Championship. The
regular WPT episodes run about an hour and a half each, while the
final World Championship episode runs about two hours. The events and
Bicycle Casino's Legends of
Poker: Joe Awada, Doyle Brunson, Grant Helling, Peter Lawson, Tom
Lee, and Lee Watkinson. This is a great episode to start off the set,
as we get to see the living legend of poker, Doyle Brunson, play like
the master that he is.
Borgata Poker Open: Josh
Arieh, Phil Ivey, Brandon Moran, Daniel Negreanu, Chris Tsiprailidis,
David Williams. In this event in Atlantic City, NJ, it's fun to see
the young star Negreanu ham it up while also playing a tough, smart
Grand Prix de Paris: Dave
Colclough, Tony G., Jim Overman, Ben Roberts, Peter Roche, Surinder
Sunar. If you're like me, you'll be rooting for someone - anyone! -
to take down the completely obnoxious, trash-talking Australian, Tony
Foxwoods' World Poker Finals:
Bradley Berman, Humberto Brenes, Temp Hutter, Tuan Le, David "The
Dragon" Pham, JC Tran. Though there are no big names at this
final table, it's still one of the most exciting in the entire set.
Three players get eliminated quickly, leaving three left for intense
World Poker Open: Chau Giang,
Raja Kattamuri, Mike "The Grinder" Mizrachi, Daniel
Negreanu, Scotty Nguyen, John Stolzmann. Here we get a face-off among
some of the toughest pros, both old and young.
L.A. Poker Classic: Ted
Forrest, Harley Hall, Hung La, Erick Lindgren, Mike "The
Grinder" Mizrachi, Haralabos Voulgaris. Another very interesting
table with a definite mix of playing styles.
Bay 101 Shooting Star: Corey
Cheresnick, Gus Hansen, Jay Martens, Danny Nguyen, Men "The
Master" Nguyen, Shandor Szentkuti. This event is enlivened by
the "bounties" put on the heads of some of the pro players:
knock one of them out and get a cash bonus! And who in the audience
wouldn't be rooting for Jay Martens, playing in a casino for the
first time after winning his entry through an $8 satellite?
WPT World Championship: Hasan
Habib, Rob Hollink, Phil Ivey, Paul Maxfield, Tuan Le, John Pham.
This final event shows that fortunes can rise and fall with a few
good (or bad) plays, making it an exciting conclusion to the season.
The World Poker Tour Best of
Season 3 set contains four DVDs in ultra-slim cases, packaged
inside a glossy slipcase.
The package design is excellent.
Most notably, there are no spoilers anywhere in the set: not in the
outer case, the DVD covers, the insides of the DVD cases, or even the
menus of the DVDs. That's very nicely done, as it ensures that
viewers don't have any of the suspense spoiled for them. After all,
even though some viewers may have seen the season on TV already,
others haven't! To be sure, there are photos of the major pro players
splashed all over the set, but cleverly, these are simply the
well-known figures who take place in the final tables shown in the
set; the fact that they appear in the case art has nothing whatsoever
to do with how they place in the tournament.
The image quality is quite good
overall. Colors look bright and lively, the picture overall is clean,
and the cards and on-screen graphics are always crisp and easy to
read. When we get "busier" pictures like the crowded casino
shots in some of the "Poker Corner" segments, it's evident
that there are some compression issues and the image doesn't look as
good, but the main program content isn't very demanding, since it's
mostly stationary cards and (mostly) unmoving players, and the
overall impression is positive.
The basic Dolby 2.0 soundtrack does
fine for conveying the commentators' voiceovers along with the
snatches of conversation at the table.
There's not much by way of bonus
material here. Disc 1 has a very short "Shana Hiatt Bloopers"
section; Discs 2 and 3 have a collection of mildly informative "Poker
Corner" segments (too bad they didn't edit them out of the main
A total of nine deleted hands is
also included, spread across several of the episodes. You can choose
to watch them separately, or watch the episode with the deleted hand
or hands included. It's a reasonable idea but it doesn't add up to
much additional content.
The World Poker Tour continues to
deliver a solid package of entertainment in its Best of Season 3
set. While hardcore poker fans may lament the "best of"
nature of the set, it's still quite a lot of poker in one package,
and the eight episodes that were selected for the set do a great job
of showcasing a variety of playing styles and dramatic finishes.
Though it may seem surprising, I'd also say that these episodes have
solid replay value: the excitement isn't just in seeing who wins, but
also in seeing how the best of the best play Texas Hold'em. Highly