Underground poker games have long been a popular subject for the depiction of the popular card game in movies and television shows. In the past, such as in movies like Rounders, these have typically been fictional and sensationalized accounts. Now, two of the most famous poker players in the world are looking to give audiences a more realistic take on the world of private high-stakes card games.
Underground Poker, a new poker television show starring colorful pros Antonio Esfandiari and Phil Laak, is set to premiere on September 10 on the Discovery Channel. According to descriptions of the program, the show will be present Laak and Esfandiari traveling to different cities in order to find the best underground poker games in town. The first episode will take the pair to New Orleans, a city that is certainly known for having a bit of a dark underbelly.
“None of the poker is staged,” Esfandiari told PokerNews. “We’re finding real games and we’re trying to get in them. There’s a bit of banter between me and Phil, because you know that’s kind of our characters. At the same time we’re trying to get into these games, so we’re meeting interesting people along the way.”
However, while the poker may be authentic, it won’t be the focus of the show. Instead, viewers should expect to see more emphasis placed on the social aspects of poker, with just a few hands of action over the course of the half hour show.
“People shouldn’t tune into this show thinking they’re going to see 30 hands of poker,” Laak said. “I think the entire show is 24 minutes, and they only show between two to five hands. It’s not a lot. It’s more about the feeling a pro has as he drifts around a city trying to find home games to play in.”
At the moment, Underground Poker has only shot a pilot, but there is potential for the show to be picked up by the Discovery Channel and turned into a series. Future episodes would likely put a little more emphasis on the poker play, and could visit just about any city in the world given the nature of the game.
This isn’t the first time that Esfandiari and Laak have starred together on a television show. In 2007, the pair made up the featured duo in I Bet You, a program that aired for two years on the MOJO Network. In the series, the two professional poker players travelled across the United States making prop bets on just about anything they encountered.
Underground Poker will air as a part of a block of programming about gambling topics that the Discovery Channel is calling “All In, All Night.” The night will start with Hustling the House, which will focus on the math and science behind various gambling games. That will be followed by Casino Secrets, which will cover a number of different topics related to casino operations. Finally, Underground Poker will be the final show to air in the block.
Esfandiari and Laak hope that enough fans will tune in to convince the Discovery Channel to turn their show into a series.
“If we get the poker community behind us, we’ll have a show on Discovery for sure,” Esfandiari said. “Hopefully people will like it and won’t bash it too much.”