Poker TV Review: NBCNHUPC

by , May 4, 2008 | 4:07 pm

I’m currently watching the Heads-Up Championship on NBC — round of 16. Mildly entertaining … it was fun to see Orel Hersheiser slightly outplay Freddy Deeb in a hand, and Full Tilt has some pretty cool new commercials. But still, the show as a whole isn’t as exciting as the commercials for the PGA Players Championship. Maybe someday … This would be much better, of course, were it being aired pseudo- or semi-live, when we still cared about our brackets.

The side profiles are pretty good — Doyle Brunson on the old guys, Orel on the similarities between poker and baseball … And I gotta say, Ali Nejad is proving he’s a top-notch color analyst — witty and well-informed.

Overall, the show is sucking me in. I give it a solid A-minus. 90 if you’re using numbers. I know Oliver (Tse, not Nejad) will have many thoughts on the ratings this show is getting, and what that means for the future of televised poker. I say more coverage of the outside tables — with or without hole-card cams — would make it better. (They only had two tables cammed up when they recorded it.)

UPDATE: Still love the Geico caveman commercials. And, of course, love that NBC was able to sell/place non-online-poker room ads.

UPDATE: Hersheiser knows Eminem lyrics. Not the best rapper, but awesome to know a guy born in 1958 appreciates good music. And damn, he is schooling Deeb as if he’s Marshall Mathers rippin’ on Ken Kaniff.

By the way, there’s a point where one cameraman zoomed in on this Pokerati comic. Odds on it making the cut?

UPDATE: Phil Ivey vs. JC Tran = 2 incredibly boring-for-TV players engaged in fascinating hand-to-hand combat. Good stuff. Want more. Just a little bit.

Ali Nejad on Greg Raymer, wearing an orange shirt and safari hat: “Greg working on a sponsorship deal with Tommy Bahama” … as they go right into the straight play-by-play. (Sorry, don’t know Nejad’s PBP partner’s name, and he’s not listed on the NBC website. Matt something.)


19 Comments to “Poker TV Review: NBCNHUPC”


  1. Ed
    says:

    I have only watched the first 2 episodes. Started on 3 but have not felt like sitting down and watching it. It pretty much urks me when I see hands from people I don’t care much about and then see someone I would like to watch play bust out and that is all we see…them busting.

    Ghey!


  2. DanM
    says:

    Nejad on GR again: “and an internship at Yellowstone National Park, where he made good friends with Yogi and Boo-Boo.” Ha!


  3. BJ Nemeth
    says:

    Actually, as an invitational event that generally attracts the big names and the nature of the heads-up format, this seems like a pretty good candidate as an experiment in “live” poker programming. You don’t need to build up these players like the WSOP Main Event — they’re generally well known to poker fans.

    Perhaps get the players to commit to a week or so (rather than a weekend), and tape up to 16 tables a day in a 2-hour show that is *nearly* live. Or, to tidy things up, skip coverage of the opening rounds (perhaps a montage), and start showing it live at the Sweet 16 or the Elite 8. It would then be run as a nearly-live special over the course of several nights.

    I might expand this idea further and write up a proposal. The hardest part would be getting NBC (or CNBC, or anyone else) to commit to several nights of “plausibly live” poker programming.


  4. DanM
    says:

    I have a feeling they will be watching the WSOP build up to semi-live. because that same format could work … recorded early rounds. Heck, they could do that all the way up to the Final Four.

    The hyperspeed editing would be much easier with only two card-cams to monitor on two tables.


  5. BJ Nemeth
    says:

    I would want live coverage of more than the Final Four, to make for more interesting bracket betting among the masses. But your idea is much, MUCH more plausible. A live Final Four FTW!

    Ali’s partner is Matt Vasgersian, who is the current play-by-play announcer for the San Diego Padres. Vasgersian has announced other televised poker events, and he hosted a charity poker tournament in San Diego last summer.

    http://www.4sd.com/team/team_mattv.php


  6. DanM
    says:

    I thought he was pretty good — on par with Lon McEachern — but his jokes were a little more poker pedantic than Ali’s. Maybe that’s necessary, for the less sophisticated poker masses. I knew I had heard him before, and he had a generally polished, professional cadence.

    Not to get nitpicky about video production stuff I have no clue about … but I thought the audio was pretty good. I liked the settings. The background noise reminded me a lot of golf.


  7. Jason B
    says:

    Its a great format but the one things that kills me about the editing is how many times do we have to see Phil Hellmuth from the sidelines complaining about losing a hand. I’m enjoying the heads up play between Matusow and Ferguson, then they have to break the action and hear about a “real professional” would never go all in with pocket 10’s. Come on!!!!


  8. olivert
    says:

    My proposed “fix” to 2009 NBC Heads-Up:

    1. Tape the Round of 64 through the semifinals in the first weekend of March, as usual. Stop when the final match-up is reached.

    2. Air the build-up shows (Round of 64, 32, 16, 8, and 4) on NBC on Sunday afternoons and CNBC on Saturday nights in April-May to build-up to the live final during May sweeps.

    3. Schedule the live final (i.e. 5-minute delay inside the “PokerDome” chamber) on a SATURDAY NIGHT, likely on CNBC given that Saturday night on CNBC is a “dead” night with no programming that is of value to CNBC. That way, NBC Universal and its corporate parent GE will incur no material financial risk.

    4. Air an edited version of the final show on NBC the next Sunday afternoon.

    Given the CNBC tie-in, have a handful of HIGH-ENERGY CNBC personalities who plays poker involved as players and/or MCs. On the top of my list is of course “Mad Money” host Jim Cramer (Are you ready SKEE-DADDY? BBBBBBBBBOO-YAH!)

    http://youtube.com/watch?v=rOVXh4xM-Ww

    http://youtube.com/watch?v=xTUIBl4oyXg


  9. BJ Nemeth
    says:

    I like the way Oliver’s thinking here. I second his proposal over my own.


  10. DanM
    says:

    ***Are you ready SKEE-DADDY? BBBBBBBBBOO-YAH!***

    Wow, Oliver … Not quite the comment I expected from you. Hearing you verbalize this would make a GREAT ringtone.


  11. olivert
    says:

    More Cramer for your amusement. BOO-YAH!

    http://youtube.com/watch?v=-aqcTR-lRsE&feature=related

    http://youtube.com/watch?v=uMwNYMRQZ60&feature=related

    http://youtube.com/watch?v=M6SoFobE-oU&feature=related

    http://youtube.com/watch?v=HqHy2lYP_Tw&feature=related

    http://youtube.com/watch?v=A4Wa0uQ6pYk&feature=related


  12. olivert
    says:

    Jim Cramer at one of the “back to school” road shows at Indiana University’s Assembly Hall basketball arena:

    http://youtube.com/watch?v=UNSzrcfE6-0

    The poker world would kill for Cramer’s Q-rating among the 18-24 and 18-34 business school/wall street crowd right now.

    “The Today Show” report on Cramer’s Indiana University tour stop:

    http://youtube.com/watch?v=PSr3mDmh9ew


  13. Poker on TV
    says:

    Wow, solid A-minus? I wouldn’t watch this show at all if I didn’t write about poker on TV. I think it’s basically flawed in conception and execution. I like the idea of live stuff, but I think it’s better to replace this show than to try and fix it. My own review update will go up this week if I can find time.


  14. DanM
    says:

    B+?

    Maybe I’m an easy grader. But still, bottom line is I had low expectations for the show and it hooked me in. Unlike the 2007 WSOP main event, which has me flipping (still) to Star Wars: Episode III. (I give that film a B+/A- as well, by the way, if that tells you anything about my curve.


  15. olivert
    says:

    > Wow, solid A-minus? I wouldn’t watch this show at all if I didn’t write about poker on TV. I think it’s basically flawed in conception and execution. I like the idea of live stuff, but I think it’s better to replace this show than to try and fix it. My own review update will go up this week if I can find time.

    One thing we all agree on:

    The status quo is UNACCEPTABLE. An 0.7% final national rating for 2008 NBC Heads-Up Episode 2 is UNACCEPTABLE. A decline of up to 54% in viewers vs the same episode 2 years ago is UNACCEPTABLE.

    The “record high overnight” press release campaign orchestrated by Poker PROductions, which in my opinion is a pathetic and dishonest attempt to cover up the final national rating decline for NBC Heads-Up, is also UNACCEPTABLE given that NBC Sports and the major ad agencies all have the final ratings a week before the final ratings are made public. The lame attempt at deception only works if the poker media editors are all fat and lazy. That may have been the case a few years ago. Not anymore.

    (The “overnight ratings” press releases need to stop, NOW. No one in the poekr industry takes them seriously anymore.)

    I do know that PokerStars.net is furious at Poker PROductions.

    I can’t imagine that FullTiltPoker.net or DoylesRoom.net are happy either.

    4 more ratings data points have yet to be made public by Nielsen via MediaLifeMagazine.com. Once they do, we will have a good idea whether NBC Sports will want to go in a different direction, i.e. hire another production firm to do NBC Heads-Up, or cancel NBC Heads-Up all together.


  16. DanM
    says:

    ***The lame attempt at deception only works if the poker media editors are all fat and lazy. ***

    Don’t forget bald.


  17. DanM
    says:

    BTW, Ali-not-Nejad, I don’t necessarily disagree with you about the numbers — they don’t lie — but I still think it was a pretty good show. Not must-see TV … but better than figure skating or rhythmic gymnastics when it comes to putting something on-air that competes with basketball and hockey playoffs, and baseball regular season.


  18. DanM
    says:

    And what about Geico and Vonage — are they unhappy with the results? Because that matters more than Full Tilt or PokerStars, imho.


  19. olivert
    says:

    > And what about Geico and Vonage — are they unhappy with the results? Because that matters more than Full Tilt or PokerStars, imho.

    Vonage is a desperate company that is staring at bankruptcy as the telcos and cablecos want to take back the voice-over-IP business themselves, much like the cablecos had to put Excite At Home out of business in 2000-2001 so that the cablecos can take back the broadband internet ISP business.

    Geico and ADT ads on NBC Heads-Up are not specifically targeted toward poker.

    Recall that Outback Steakhouse was the presenting sponsor of NBC Heads-Up. Outback ended the sponsorship after 2007.

    Right now, NBC Heads-Up does not have beer, mobile telephone, and automobile ads. I consider those three categories to be barometers of success or failure for a sports TV product.