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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » World Poker Tour: Best of Season Three
World Poker Tour: Best of Season Three
Shout Factory // Unrated // November 1, 2005
List Price: $39.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Holly E. Ordway | posted November 25, 2005 | E-mail the Author
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C O N T E N T
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A U D I O
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The movie

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 entertaining experience.

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 DVD port.

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 players are:

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 game.

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 G.

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 action.

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 DVD

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.

Video

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.

Audio

The basic Dolby 2.0 soundtrack does fine for conveying the commentators' voiceovers along with the snatches of conversation at the table.

Extras

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 program, then).

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.

Final thoughts

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 recommended.

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