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World Poker Tour Season One

World Poker Tour Season One
World Poker Tour LLC
2003 / Color / 1:33 flat full frame / approx 1,200 min. / $99.00
Starring Shana Hiatt, Mike Sexton, Vince Van Patten
Originally Aired on The Travel Channel

Reviewed by Robert Spuhler

Six people, often all male, sit around a table, staring intently at each other and their cards. One throws chips into the center of the table. Some of the others follow by throwing in their cards, while one matches the first person's wager.

Why is this fascinating? How did a show featuring Vince Van Patten become a hit? How has televised poker become the latest television fad?


The "stars" of professional poker face off in a series of 12 events, in each competing for the first place prize money and a spot in the World Poker Tour Championship, the final episode of the set.

Episode 1: Five Diamond World Poker Classic, Bellagio, Las Vegas, NV
Episode 2: The Legends of Poker, The Bicycle Casino, Los Angeles, CA
Episode 3: Ultimate Poker Classic, UltimateBet, Aruba
Episode 4: Costa Rica Classic, Casinos Europa, Costa Rica
Episode 5: Gold Rush Tournament, Lucky Chances Casino, Colma, CA
Episode 6: World Poker Finals, Foxwoods Resort Casino, Mashantucket, CT
Episode 7: Jack Binion World Poker Open, Horseshoe Casino, Tunica, MS
Episode 8: Euro Finals of Poker, Aviation Club de France, Paris, France
Episode 9: L.A. Poker Classic, Commerce Casino, Los Angeles, CA
Episode 10: WPT Pro-Celebrity Invitational, Commerce Casino, Los Angeles, CA
Episode 11: PartyPoker Million, PartyPoker, Caribbean Cruise
Episode 12: World Poker Challenge, Reno Hilton, Reno, NV
Episode 13: WPT Championship, Bellagio, Las Vegas, NV
Bonus: WPT: Road to the Championship
Bonus: WPT: Poker Primer, hosted by Lou Diamond Phillips

Featuring Top Pros: Doyle Brunson, Phil Hellmuth, Scotty Nguyen, Gus Hansen, Phil Ivey, Layne Flack, Jennifer Harman, and many others.

Poker is the perfect "sport" for the 500-channel cable universe. It can be easily edited into short blocks with obvious advertising breaks, it is cheap and, most importantly, it has a built-in, wide audience � it seems everyone grew up playing cards of one form or another.

Maybe that is a part of the appeal. Most people have never dunked a basketball, never hit a home run, never hauled in an 80-yard touchdown pass. But many, many more people have sat across a table from an opponent, trying to figure out what cards that person is holding while staring down at king-high garbage.

In addition, it is easier for people to imagine themselves sitting at that final table at a major poker tournament. In order to play in the National Basketball Association, most of us have to grow another six inches, add a foot or two to our vertical leap and spend 15 hours a day in the gym perfecting our jump shots. In order to be at the final table in a poker tournament, we have to get a few lucky cards and bluff a couple times.

ESPN has shown the "sport" in different forms in order to fill programming time in the past, most recently with the successful World Series of Poker. Bravo has gotten in the game with Celebrity Poker, though with "celebrities" like Coolio and questionable or downright stupid moves on the table, often the show features neither celebrities nor actual poker. Between February 14th and 21st, poker television shows will run 18 times.

World Poker Tour is not the first attempt to televise poker, but WPT may be poker on its grandest televised scale. It became the highest-rated series in the history of the Travel Channel last year; according to Lakes Entertainment, primary owner of the WPT, more than five million people tune in each week. In addition, its two-hour episodes (against hour-long time slots for most of its competition) allow poker fanatics to follow a tournament's final table from start to finish and learn from the pros. The DVD set includes all 13 episodes from the first season, spread out over seven discs.

The shows themselves are well produced, with features on the players and the tournament locales (likely the hook that gets a poker show on the Travel Channel). The "hole card cameras," which show the cards each player are holding, give viewers a chance to play along at home and understand how different players deal with different situations. Though cheesy, it is also impressive at the end of each episode when the final prize pot is wheeled or carried out to the table and more than half a million dollars is dumped in front of the two remaining competitors.

But while the shows themselves are well done, compelling television, the DVD version can't measure up. What is the point of a viewer watching a competition when (s)he already knows the result? The replay value of the discs is nearly nil, unless the viewer is really analyzing the strategy behind the moves made by the players.

Wisely, it is exactly that market - the hardcore poker players - that WPT seems to be after. The set is only available at the Tour's Web site - you're not going to see it next to American Splendor or Lost in Translation at your local electronics superstore. There aren't the normal extras such as biographies or television spots.

World Poker Tour LLC has self-produced this eight disc DVD set. The sound quality is acceptable, but the chapter breaks are random; there are no breaks, for instance, after the poker primer that aired during every episode of the series - prime skipping material. Worse is the video quality, which often shows pixelation. The eighth disc, which contains another poker primer and a special entitled Road to the Championship, is attached to a piece of cardboard rather than having an actual holder inside the box.

On a scale of Excellent, Good, Fair, and Poor, World Poker Tour Season One rates:
Movie: Good
Video: Fair
Sound: Excellent
Supplements: none
Available at:
Reviewed: February 15, 2004

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Text © Copyright 2007 Robert Spuhler
DVD Savant Text © Copyright 2007 Glenn Erickson

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