Poker

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A TELEVISION series entitled Late Night Poker starts on Channel 4 on Saturday. The series is in six parts, lasting an hour each. It follows the progress of players - some pros, some amateurs, some women, some foreign visitors - in a Hold 'em tournament. The 40 players invited to take part each put up pounds 1,500 to make a pounds 60,000 prize pool. The first programme goes out at five past midnight, which is late, but not too late for poker addicts.

On the evidence of the first show, it is quite serious stuff. Viewers will see the first table of eight players battling it out. The problem, which had previously baffled all attempts to show poker on television, was how to make the game come alive by revealing the players' hands. Here a most ingenious device has been used, cameras fixed under a glass table, which enables the viewers - but not the players, of course - to see the hole cards in play.

Nic Szeremeta, editor of the magazine Poker Europa, deserves enormous credit for dreaming up this series and getting it on screen. It can only do poker good. But, having said that, I must confess to finding this first episode, though absorbing, less than gripping. I would have liked the players to comment, after key hands, as they did in an earlier series on master chess. Unless players' thinking is explained, Hold 'em looks too much like a random shoot-out. In the first programme we see such stars as the inventor Sir Clive Sinclair, the former European champion Liam Flood and Peter "the Bandit" Evans, a scrap-metal dealer from Birmingham.

Szeremeta believes that a "poker explosion" is on the way in this country. His hope is that the series will make interesting viewing for an audience of a million people, many of whom will then rush down to their local casinos and card-rooms to learn how to play. Let's hope he is right. Many people feel intimidated by casinos. As I have remarked before, it is up to us, the players, to bring in new players and show them a good time. Television may help.

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