Poker Central may not be on the air yet, but it is already building a stable of top, well-known professional players to help get it off the ground. Antonio Esfandiari was announced as the latest partner for Poker Central, just a week after the network signed Daniel Negreanu to a similar deal.
“We are thrilled to add Antonio to the Poker Central team,” said Poker Central CEO Clint Stinchcomb. “Antonio is beloved in the poker community, and will be a great asset in launching our 24/7 poker network.”
Poker Central has been billed as the first television network completely devoted to poker. Set to launch late this year, the network is expected to offer over 2,000 hours of programming when it first hits the air, including traditional poker shows (such as tournament coverage or high stakes cash games), instructional material, movies, biographies, news and highlights.
Antonio Esfandiari, known as “The Magician” in the poker world, expressed his eagerness to help get the network off to a strong start.
“I’m excited to help launch Poker Central,” Esfandiari said in a press release. “Soon 24/7 poker will be available all over the world.”
It is unclear exactly how Poker Central will be distributed to audiences. However, Stinchcomb has said that he believes there is a market out there for a network devoted entirely to poker.
“Big TV networks like ESPN, Fox Sports, and Travel Channel have proven the appeal of poker on television, but, in light of their commitments to other leagues and content franchises, poker represents only about one percent of the programming they will offer in the course of a year,” Stinchcomb told PokerNews last month.
Stinchcomb has likened Poker Central to networks like the Golf Channel and Investigation Discovery, other channels with a narrow focus that many doubted had the audience to support them, but then found the viewership to make them work.
It certainly won’t hurt the network to have some powerful partners in the poker world to help promote it, either. Esfandiari and Negreanu are the only big names officially announced so far, Poker Central says that other partners will be announced in the weeks to come.
Esfandiari is certainly one of the most popular personalities in the poker world, having made numerous television appearances both during poker tournaments and by way of doing commentary or starring in gambling shows such as “I Bet You.”
He’s also one of the most successful tournament pros of all time. He has three World Series of Poker Bracelets, two World Poker Tour titles, and has won more than $26.4 million in his live tournament career.
That’s enough to make Esfandiari the second-winningest tournament poker player of all time, trailing only Daniel Negreanu. Esfandiari won the 2012 Big One for One Drop to take the lead on the money list; Negreanu overtook him by finishing second in the 2014 edition of the same tournament.
Both Esfandiari and Negreanu are also slated to play in the Super High Roller Bowl this summer at the Aria in Las Vegas. The $500,000 buy-in tournament will be one of the first sources of original content for Poker Central, as the network is producing a television show alongside POKER PROductions that will cover the event.