In another blow to the poker industry, the “PokerStars Big Game” and “PokerStars Million Dollar Challenge,” which both aired on Fox, have been yanked from the network. Poker News Daily confirmed the news on Monday, with a source close to the situation revealing that it was “probably a mutual decision.” ESPN’s Gary Wise first broke the story. Poker News Daily has learned that “The Big Game” will air outside of the United States and appear on PokerStars.tv.
The founders of PokerStars, Isai Scheinberg and Paul Tate, were among the 11 people indicted by the U.S. Department of Justice on Friday. According to the indictment, Scheinberg, Tate, and company “arranged for the money received from U.S. gamblers to be disguised as payments to hundreds of non-existent online merchants purporting to sell merchandise such as jewelry and golf balls.”
A total of 12 weeks of “Big Game” programming aired. The cash game series featured a lineup of pros that included PokerStars front man Daniel Negreanu, former UB.com pro Phil Hellmuth, Unabomber pro Phil Laak, 2005 World Series of Poker Main Event champ Joe Hachem, 2009 Main Event winner Joe Cada, and Phil “OMGClayAiken” Galfond. PokerStars served as the presenting sponsor of the show, which featured Amanda Leatherman as its host.
Joe Stapleton and Scott Huff were to serve as the announcers for the upcoming season of the “Big Game,” which will now not occur on Fox. Poker veteran B.J. Nemeth lamented over Twitter on Monday, “Me too. They worked hard for this opportunity. RT @JonV: Was really looking forward to @ScottBHuff & @twojacksjoe on the Big Game together.”
Stapleton commented over his Twitter account, “Thanks to all the condolences and well-wishers. I’ve been asked not to say much, but I most certainly appreciate the love and support… Also, my thoughts are with the thousands of people this will affect negatively. Unfortunately, I have no words of consolation.”
Huff revealed that the “Big Game” could still be distributed outside of the United States or streamed via the Web: “Indeed the show will not air on FOX. My point earlier – no decisions have been made about int’l or web. So stay tuned. Thanks all.”
The “Million Dollar Challenge” consisted of four heads-up matches with online qualifiers. In the opening match, a qualifier would face off against a celebrity in a heads-up No Limit Hold’em bout. The roster of celebrities include Playboy Playmate Jayde Nicole, former Denver Broncos quarterback John Elway, and Pittsburgh Steelers great Jerome Bettis.
If the challengers defeated the celebrities, then it was on to face a PokerStars pro in another heads-up match. The list of pros for Round 2 included Barry Greenstein, Vanessa Rousso, and Chris Moneymaker, the latter of whom effectively started the modern poker boom with his win in the Main Event in 2003. Winners of this round then faced Negreanu heads-up and anyone who trumped “Kid Poker” could battle for a chance at $1 million.
A college football all-star challenge appeared on ESPN2 on Monday night in place of the PokerStars North American Poker Tour (NAPT), whose second season was set to begin airing. ESPN has also yanked its PokerStars-backed “Inside Deal” from its website, but announced that the 2011 WSOP would air as normal. The 2011 WSOP gets underway next month from the Rio All-Suite Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.
Despite “Inside Deal” being removed from ESPN’s website, ESPN.com Poker Editor Andrew Feldman Tweeted that a new installment will be released on Friday: “Inside Deal with @Jon_Anik, @BernardLeePoker, and myself this Friday. You won’t want to miss this one.”
Therefore, it looks like “Inside Deal” will be continuing. Previously, PokerStars served as its presenting sponsor, so a new sponsor may be in the works.