Late Night Poker Returns

So what is the fuss all about? Why is this such a special moment for televised poker?

Well, ask yourself these questions. Why do you play poker? How did you learn about Texas Hold’Em? When did you first see Barny Boatman or Joe Beevers on TV? Why does this website even exist? When did you first hear the expression “not all trappers wear fur hats”? I guess Late Night Poker is the answer to most, if not all, of these questions.

Why was it so ground breaking ? Well, back in 1999 ( yes, it’s only 7 years ago ! ), poker was relatively unknown as a serious pastime in this country. Its image was very seedy, of old men huddled in dimly lit backstreet rooms in dodgy areas of town. You wouldn’t read about it in newspapers or see it on TV. Poker was definitely NOT cool in those days!

At that time, I worked for BBC Wales Sport and was a colleague of Chris Stuart, one of the founders of Presentable Ltd, a small independent production company based in Cardiff. He told me about this new poker series his company were making for Channel 4 and how excited he was about it. I had no idea what Texas Hold ‘Em was. I wasn’t aware that poker professionals even existed and knew nothing about the wonderfully bizarre poker scene that fascinates so many of us today.

So, with a certain amount of scepticism and curiosity, I tuned in to the first episode of Late Night Poker. My first reaction was that I didn’t like the game – 2 cards each, 5 on the table – what’s that all about ??!! I enjoyed the drama and tension in the studio and was intrigued by the characters at the table but Texas Hold ‘Em, hmmmm… not convinced ! But I stuck with it. Gradually I started to appreciate what this Hold ‘Em game was all about. Then of course, I tried a game with my friends – and like so many others, I was hooked!

Presentable went on to make 6 series of LNP for Channel 4. By the time series 6 was broadcast in 2002, the poker world had been transformed. Tournaments had sprouted up all over the place, online sites had emerged, players like Devilfish, Phil Hellmuth and Doyle Brunson were now TV stars, sponsors were getting involved and the money on the pro circuit was sky high. The image of poker had completely changed – suddenly it was “cool” to say “I play poker”!

4 years on, and LNP is back ! The series comprises 2 separate tournaments. The first is LNP Ace where 32 online qualifiers compete for the title “best amateur player in the world” and a first prize of $50,000. I appreciate some of you are not keen on watching “amateur” players. However, these guys all qualified through large online tournaments on the Party Poker site and adapted very well to the live environment. Both Jesse May and Simon Trumper, who commentated on the series, were very impressed with the standard of play. It made us think we should stop calling them “amateurs” and instead think of them just as very good poker players who just happen to play most of their poker online.

The second tournament is LNP Masters – 24 professionals competing with the 8 finalists from LNP Ace for a first prize of $100,000. Some of the old faces from LNP are in action eg Ken Lennaard, Pascal Perrault, Donnacha O’Dea, Marcel Luske, Surinder Sunar as well as ,of course, 3 of The Mob – Joe, Ram and Barny – plus 2 former LNP champions Simon Trumper and Peter Costa.. Of the newer names, there’s Tony G, Mikael Thuritz from Sweden and Kenna “The Cowboy” James from the USA.

I know there has been plenty of debate about this series on the Mob Forum regarding players being offered incentives to play and deals being done etc. All I can do here is re-iterate that none of the players in this series were paid any appearance money to participate.

Anyway, you’ve only got to hear the way that some of the guys talk about LNP in this series to understand what LNP means to them and how much they appreciate the part LNP played in the transformation of poker in recent years.

For me personally, the whole thing came full circle last year when I left the BBC to join Presentable as their poker producer. So now, not only do I have the enjoyment of playing Texas Hold ‘Em but my job is to make poker programmes. This is a fantastic privilege and something I would never have dreamt I’d end up doing as I sat down to watch that first episode of LNP back in 1999.

I hope you enjoy watching the series as much as we enjoyed making it.

Rob Thomas is the producer of Late Night Poker and joined Presentable, a production company based in Cardiff, Wales, in July 2005.