$1m Celebrity Shootout puts the boom back in poker

New 24/7 poker TV channel signs three stars of the game and prepares for two huge tourneys in Vegas

The US might be taking its time legalising online poker, but a lot of money is getting poured into a new 24/7 poker TV channel, suggesting that for a lot of people it’s a case of when, not if, the second poker boom happens.

Poker Central is a brand new channel, located in Vegas, and set to launch before the end of 2015. In the past couple of months it’s been on a spending spree, adding Phil Hellmuth, Daniel Negreanu and Antonio Esfandiari as partners. Hellmuth announced his involvement in June saying, ‘I’m glad to play an integral role in creating Poker Central. It’s exciting to create a poker TV network that will launch worldwide from day one.’

Poker Central is also behind the tournament series that’s got the whole of Vegas talking this summer – the Super High Roller Series. With the WSOP playing out at the Rio, the other Strip casinos normally play second fiddle in the summer, but the Aria is running the $500k Super High Roller Bowl this July, along with a a Celebrity Shootout and a Super High Roller Cash Game.

$500k extravaganza

The Super High Roller Bowl (July 2-4) is a $500k buy-in event, which is expecting a $25m prize pool, based on 50 players entering, with zero rake or tournament fees. If they hit this, the first prize would be an astronomical $8.25m. First off though, is the Super High Roller Celebrity Shootout, which plays out June 27-28.

The format sees five celebs and five pros face off in two separate games. The winners of each will then play in a best-of-three heads-up match and the winner of this will get $1m. It’s being filmed for TV and will air on NBC over three Wednesdays, starting on July 29 at 9pm ET.

‘These Hollywood celebrities are about to face off in the hardest game of their life, for more than they’ve ever played for before, against some of the world’s best players,’ said Clint Stinchcomb, CEO of Poker Central. ‘This exciting, high pressure poker will be riveting to watch.’

Here are the players and celebs that will be playing:

The pros

Doyle Brunson
The godfather of poker is in semi-retirement from tournaments, although he played the Super Seniors event at this year’s WSOP and is still a regular at the cash tables.

Phil Hellmuth
The self-acknowledged best player in the world added his 14th bracelet at this year’s WSOP and will relish the chance to take his game back on TV to prove himself in front of a new generation of viewers. The question is, if he gets unlucky, will he treat the world to a ‘Poker Brat’ special?

Antonio Esfandiari
The second of Poker Central’s ambassadors is used to playing for the sort of cash that would have lesser mortals hyperventilating. He won the 2012 Big One for One Drop, which netted him $18,346,673 and will fancy his chances of adding another milly to his career winnings of $26.5m.

Daniel Negreanu
Negreanu doesn’t need much of an introduction. He’s number one on the all-time money list with $30,095,734 in career winnings and he’s always get plenty to say, on and off the table. He’s been playing way more mixed games of late so it will be interesting to see if his NLHE game is still sharp.

Vanessa Selbst
Poker might be a game dominated by men, but Vanessa Selbst is more than a measure for anyone at the poker table. She’s got over $10m in winnings, has three gold bracelets and is hyper-competitive. She would love to come out on top of this five-player elite.

The celebs

Hank Azaria
With four Emmys to his name, Azaria is an actor who’s starred in films like Godzilla, Run Fatboy Run and Night at the Museum. He’s best known for his voiceovers on The Simpsons though, where he does Moe Szyslak and Chief Wiggum, among others.

Don Cheadle
A Golden Globe winner and Academy Award nominee, Cheadle has starred in films such as Crash, Hotel Rwanda, Boogie Nights and Iron Man 2 & 3. He co-founded the charitable organisation Ante Up For Africa which raised over $3m for Darfur.

Brad Garrett
He won three Emmys for his role as Robert Barone in Everybody Loves Raymond, and you’ll have heard his voice in blockbuster animated films such as Finding Nemo, Ratatouille and Tangled. Garrett has recently opened a comedy club at the MGM Grand.

Norm Macdonald
Macdonald is a standup comedian who’s also starred in blockbusters like Deuce Bigalow and Dr. Dolittle. His first mainstream poker work was as the new host of High Stakes Poker, where he replaced the hugely popular team of Gabe Kaplan and AJ Benza.

Kevin Pollak
The host of Celebrity Poker Showdown is a standup comedian and star of over 60 films, such as A few Good Men, The Usual Suspects and the fantastic Scorsese flick Casino. He finished 134th in the 2012 WSOP Main Event, which netted him $52,718.

TV times

Poker Central itself is due to launch worldwide on October 1, with a network deal in place in the US. If you live outside of the US you’ll still be able to watch online. We spoke to Poker Central CEO Clint Stinchcomb who said: ‘At Poker Central, our mission is to make poker available to poker enthusiasts across the globe. Poker Central will be available inside and outside the US from day one. Viewers will be able to watch Poker Central on all media platforms including TV, computers, tablets and phones. We plan on offering unique access every day to celebrity players, tips and strategies from the pros, player profiles and exclusive tournaments from destinations around the globe.’

It’s exciting stuff and just what the game needs. First though, all eyes will be on the Super High Roller Bowl, which plays out July 2-4. The Celebrity Shootout runs June 27-28, followed by the Super High Roller Cash Game. You can find the latest information at www.superhighroller.com.


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