Review: Club WPT on Fox Sports Net

by , Oct 11, 2008 | 10:25 am

ClubWPT is the newest show to come out of the World Poker Tour family and the first to premiere on Fox Sports Net, and, well, I expected better.

Let me start by saying that I’m a fan of the WPT and have been since I was employed in their accounting department. I always secretly pull for the WPT to do well. And in truth, despite my criticisms of the company and its decisions at times, I feel that they’ve weathered some storms and still managed to put together a quality product every time. That is why it pained me to watch ClubWPT when it premiered on Saturday.

The premise of the show is to take six tournament qualifiers from the ClubWPT subscription website, send them to Los Angeles for a ritzy stay at the Four Seasons, and arrange for them compete in a live SNG where the winner takes the $5K prize on camera. The six that made the first show were…saying it gently…beginners. Frankie, the irritating New York bartender who loved to trash talk, was the only one who seemed to have any real grasp of live play. Granted, this is a show about amateur players, but most of them seemed to have never handled real chips before. Some of them may have played before but were on camera for such a short time that they weren’t able to show it.

Announcers Barry Tompkins and Bart Hansen did as well as they could as commentators, questioning plays in a way so as not to disparage the players but indicate that there were better plays to have been made. I’m not familiar with Tompkins but Hansen I know from Live at the Bike and PokerRoad podcasts, and he is a great announcer, though seemed a bit nervous for the moments he was actually in front of the camera instead of just calling the action. All in all, they were in a tough position of analyzing play without insulting anyone.

The TV hostess, Alison Waite, was there in full-makeup to take the show to and from commercials and plug ClubWPT as “exciting!” at every opportunity. Again, considering it was the first show, it is understandable that she was a bit nervous, but her feigned enthusiasm was a bit much to take. If she gets more comfortable in the spot, or if they’d let her talk to the players – anything to be in a more relaxed setting – she might seem more at ease.

And the players. Oh, the players. The whole idea of the show is to put the online players in a new setting and see what happens, but what happened was almost embarrassing. Every other play had me shaking my head, either at the betting amounts or the cards they were playing. And more than once, a player acted out of turn.

Frankie and Betty ended up in heads-up action for the winner-take-all prize money. Frankie continued to trash talk Betty, the mild-mannered truck driver who was clearly inexperienced in live play, which was like watching a high-school kid try to bully a kindergartener. He even made a crack at the tournament director with regard to his inexperience, and that TD just happened to be Bellagio’s own Jack McClelland, one of the most respected TD’s in the country. Betty tried to make some witty comebacks, but they were overshadowed by her inability to handle her cards or chips; she had a tough time counting out her chips and remembering what amounts each represented, and she was completely unaware of the who-bets-when action in heads-up play. I’m not even sure she was aware that she won when she did.

All in all, I thought the production quality looked cheap and flavorless, the complete opposite of what we’ve come to expect from WPT by watching the World Poker Tour. And between the discomfort of the players and the level of inexperience with live play, it was tough to watch. I hope to see it get better as the season progresses…

Earl Burton wrote a review for Poker News Daily in which he pointed out some of the faults but proclaimed it a “refreshing change to poker television” because of the possibilities that lie in WPT’s hands, such as creating a tournament of champions or bringing winners in to play with top poker pros. In that respect, I agree that there is potential.

15 Comments to “Review: Club WPT on Fox Sports Net”

  1. anonymous

    I watched the show too and it was painful as the players were horrible. I’m so glad that the bartender didn’t win. It probably was the best thing that happened to him as he said he was going to take the 5k if he won and go pro. The scary part is that each of the participants beat about 500-700 people online to get to the TV table.

  2. DanM

    Hey anon, for a show that was painful to watch, you sure did pay close attention!

    I’m willing to give any first go the benefit of the doubt. But am curious what you all think of the overall concept … putting rank amateurs on air competing for $5ish k kinda dollars.

  3. Ed

    Jen, don’t diss the way the players acted. The ones who messed up may have just been nervous. I have played live plenty but I am sure there would be many mistakes if I had cameras on me….until I got over it all. (If I were still in the SnG by then.)

  4. anonymous

    Dan, it’s kinda like passing a car wreck – you just can’t turn away. The guy who busted in 3rd place open limped 3handed with A-6 having only 3bb in his stack. Then the bartender blind shoved and the limper FOLDED!!!!! I happened to catch the episode while channel surfing last Sunday night and as someone who has been on these kinda shows (UB and Mansion)I couldn’t help but watch.

  5. DanM

    Fair enough. But if bad play is the problem … then I kinda like it. (I state this provisionally, of course, until I actually see the show.)

    There’s often a lot to learn from players who are clearly worse than you are. Perhaps even more than from watching players who are better.

  6. bluffdiver

    Clearly, some of you are missing the point when it comes to this show. The purpose of this show is simple – to serve as an infomercial to drive people to and subscribe. OF COURSE, the play at the table is going to be horrible. These are a bunch of hacks that won their seat on a $20 a month subscription site. But I think that is part of the potential appeal of the show.

    The show is not targeted toward expert poker players who want to watch quality play and discuss the hands with people on internet message boards afterward, because these people will obviously not be customers of a subscription based site. The show is targeted toward the casual poker player who might like the risk-free nature of a subscription site to be able to play for fun and some small prize money every now and then.

    Now, of course it will be necessary to at least produce a show that people will watch and therefore garner the ratings necessary to justify FSN keeping it on the air. To do this, I think they need to do a couple of things. First, make the commentary as educational as possible, so that viewers can learn from the many mistakes made by the players, and I think they did a pretty decent job of that in the first episode. Second, in order to add a little more drama to the table, I think it would be great to throw a pro into the mix every week. Let the viewer see first hand the contrast between profressional and amateur play. It would also give the people someone to root for or against and add a little drama to the show. Third, get that PMOY a little more air-time.

  7. anonymous

    Also, you can get a free entry to all of the tournaments and not pay the $20/month fee.

    For each period that you want to participate in Club Tournaments, send a 3 inch x 5 inch card on which the player has legibly handwritten their ClubWPT Username, First and Last Name, Complete Mailing Address (e.g. Street, City, State, ZIP code), Email Address, and Date of Birth. The card must be placed in a envelope, and mailed to PO Box 30488 Las Vegas Nevada 89173.

  8. DanM

    ***it will be necessary to at least produce a show that people will watch and therefore garner the ratings necessary to justify FSN keeping it on the air***

    i agree with you, bluffdiver, but actually ratings aren’t even that important, because it IS an infomercial, and the WPT is paying for the airtime.

    ***Third, get that PMOY a little more air-time.***

    PMOY … player maximus of the year? partial make-good of the year?

  9. bluffdiver

    PMOY = Playmate of the Year – as in Alison Waite, the hostess.

  10. DanM

    oh right. yeah, of course. go boobs!

  11. Shiner

    Wow, actually some good, honest, and constructive criticism on the web?!? Agree completley with your comments. Great article. However, one of the responses was dead on. I think the attraction of the show will be…”I can beat these guys!!” Well, then sign up for Club WPT and do it. Makes a lot of sense. It does need improvements and agree that will come in time.

  12. Poker on TV

    I don’t mind watching bad players, but this was a bad show. I would have been happy with another Poker Dome, which I think is the most underrated poker show of all time. This wasn’t nearly as good however. And just some studio pieces for the hottie? What a waste.

  13. FrankieC

    HaHa… To the person who wrote this I just wanna thank you for the mention. I am the bartender this douche is reffering to. Come join my tounament on Friday’s @ 11pm est. “FrankieC’s Tourny” Knock me out and win a prize… See ya all there!!!

  14. KungFu

    i agree with a few of the comments up above. Before i was informed of what type of game or how many people we would be playing against my friends and i were hoping it would be like 5 internet winners and 5 pros on a table or something like that. I think it would be fun to add a Tournament of Champions season ender episode and bring back all previous winners. That would be a cool concept and make it a little more entertaining. Or bring back all the winners and then also bring in pros and have like a multi-table tournament. Anything. and im not just saying that cause i won the 3rd episode. haha

  15. JamieTee21

    I like the show. As we used to say in college: Cold beer is better than warm beer; warm beer is better than skunk beer; and skunk beer is better than no beer. This poker show was better than no poker show at all.

    It was also better than those Late Night Poker shows where we are forced to listen to endless driveling conversation between degenerates who are way too full of themselves, and who are playing for the equivalent of chump change. This show had a sense of drama that comes from watching real people playing for something very important to them.

    Areas for improvement: (1) A lighter stage set and perhaps an audience. The stage set was way too dark and lifeless. (2) Maybe give the winner a chance to double up by taking on a name pro. (3) Is it too much to ask to have a hostess with soft, real cleavage? I am tired of twigs with implants wearing clown make-up.