Last week, the World Poker Tour announced that it had signed an agreement with cable network Fox Sports Net to broadcast the seventh season of the wildly-popular poker tournament series. The first five seasons aired (and in the case of Seasons II through V, continue to air) on The Travel Channel. Last year, the WPT entered into negotiations with GSN, the Network for Games, to broadcast the sixth season of the show. GSN abruptly elected not to pick up the exclusive option that the network had on the seventh season of WPT programming, which began last weekend with the Bellagio Cup. This left the future of fellow poker show High Stakes Poker in jeopardy. However, according to Jennifer Minezaki, Director of Public Relations for GSN, the network has opted to pick up the fifth season of High Stakes Poker.
HSP is the only televised high-stakes cash game. It has real money on the line and features some of the top poker names in the business dueling it out for hundreds of thousands of dollars. The first telecast aired in 2006 on GSN and has become a ratings juggernaut for the network. Filming locations have included the Golden Nugget, Palms, and South Point Casinos in sunny Las Vegas, Nevada. Players have included Doyle Brunson, Daniel Negreanu, Sammy Farha, Eli Elezra, Antonio “The Magician” Esfandiari, Jennifer Harman, Phil Hellmuth, Barry Greenstein, Todd Brunson, Phil ‘The Unabomber” Laak, Mike “The Mouth” Matusow, Patrik Antonius, Erick Lindgren, Daniel Alaei, Ted Forrest, David Benyamine, Jamie Gold, Phil Ivey, Los Angeles Lakers (NBA) owner Jerry Buss, Chris “Jesus” Ferguson, John D’Agostino, David Williams, and Paul Wasicka.
In its fourth season, High Stakes Poker had a minimum buy-in of $100,000, which has resulted in pots that have topped $1 million, all fit to air on television. Gabe Kaplan and A.J. Benza provide commentary in each episode, which is a free-flowing cash game than a structured tournament. In essence, the show has no climax and continues from week to week with players coming and going as they please.
Kaplan, if you’ll remember, was the central character in “Welcome Back Kotter,” a 1970s television show. He’s also provided commentary on telecasts of several World Series of Poker Main Events. Benza is an all-around entertainment guru who recently published his memoirs entitled, “Fame, Ain’t It a Bitch.”
The first two seasons of High Stakes Poker are available on GSN’s website. GSN continues to air new episodes of Season IV every Monday night at 9:00pm ET. No official date for the beginning of Season V has been given, nor has there been any indication of whether additional episodes will be filmed or whether Season V will consist of additional unaired portions of Season IV. Regardless, poker will continue to live on at GSN. Minezaki told PokerNewsDaily.com that GSN “continues to enjoy poker on its air.”
Monday night is also the home of the sixth season of the World Poker Tour, which is currently airing on the network. When HSP Season V airs, it will have a new companion on Monday nights. GSN has seen a changeover in management in recent months, with new CEO David Goldhill rumored to be averse to having poker air on his network. Former CEO Rich Cronin was instrumental in luring the World Poker Tour to GSN. However, High Stakes Poker airing its fifth season bodes well for fans of the show. Poker player Daniel Negreanu noted, “The players were paid like actors- $1250 an hour. There was no rake, but the dealers did accept tokes.” The allure of High Stakes Poker is that all of the money being played for is real. Players often bring stacks of cash to the table in lieu of casino chips.
We’ll keep you updated on when you can expect to see High Stakes Poker on GSN.