December 8, 2015
While at the WSOP this summer I stopped by Jennifer Tilly’s table to say hi. She jumped out of her chair, gave me a hug (sick brag) and immediately said “Todd, it’s so great, it seems like every day people come up to me and say they’ve been watching me play on Poker Night in America.”
That was the single most gratifying sentence I heard someone speak in 2015. We have lots of numbers and lots of ratings information but nothing in a spreadsheet has the impact of hearing it from Jennifer Tilly. People are watching. And that’s a good thing.
The past year has been tremendous for Poker Night in America. It’s become a mainstay on CBS Sports Network. When we began this endeavor, CBS Sports promised to air the show four times a week. It must be working for them because in 2015 it will air over 500 times. For you poker math nerds that’s about 10x per week…on national TV.
Our formula, which we are constantly tweaking, is to populate our cash games with fun and interesting people (not just poker players). I can’t say it’s always perfect but more often than not we get interesting and fun tables with lots of banter, laughing and good poker.
Highlights from 2015:
James Woods in Atlantic City – Super fun. Lots of great stories. Having him on the same table with renowned film critic Richard Roeper was pure gold.
Ladies Night II – Once again they proved that girls just want to have fun, this time at Sugar House in Philadelphia. Phil Hellmuth sat in with the ladies for a few orbits which made for an interesting dynamic (and of course he lost).
Chad Holloway mixes it up – After reporting on poker for years Chad got a chance to get in the game in Philly, and he did very well for himself.
Twitch Event – We partnered with Twitch in July to occupy their homepage with a special Poker Night home game featuring our best lineup ever: Negreanu, Laak, Esfandiari, Hellmuth, Maria Ho, and lots more. Over the course of two days Poker Night in America had more viewers on Twitch than any other poker content.
New Show: In August we began filming tournament final tables which will become a new hour long TV show called Poker Night: The Tour. Hosted by Phil Hellmuth, Jason Somerville, Maria Ho, and David Tuchman, Poker Night: The Tour will be tournament poker with a few twists and will air on national TV starting in April.
Seminole Hard Rock Big Four – The Hard Rock in Hollywood Florida always tries to push the envelope and they succeeded once more with four final tables on the same day! We live streamed and filmed the whole day with Phil Hellmuth as Master of Ceremonies.
In New York we had eventual main event champ Joe Mckeehen and his nemesis Mike Dentale at the same table.
At Rivers in Pittsburgh we tried to kick field goals (sadly myself and David Tuchman sucked) and eventually had to carry a victorious Tom “Donkeybomber” Schneider into the poker room. We wrapped 2015 back at Hard Rock Hollywood with Ladies Night III, a record prize pool, and some interesting live stream commentary by Phil Laak and Matt Salsberg.
More events: Soon we will be announcing the first half of Poker Night in America and Poker Night: The Tour. New stops, more stops, with two in California in the first six months of 2016.
More chances to play on TV: At the end of 2015 we started running single table sit-n-go’s where the winner gets a seat at the TV cash game. They proved so popular we have every intention of continuing with these opportunities for local players to play on the show.
Poker Night in Europe – Working on it!
Seven-handed tables – We experimented with short-handed games at the end of 2015 and it was a success. A seven-handed table generates more action, better table conversations, and better camera angles to make the show look more “tableside”.
More episodes – in 2015 we produced over 40 new episodes. In 2016 we are planning to produce twice as many with 80 new episodes in the pipeline.
We are looking forward to 2016 for both Poker Night in America and the new show, Poker Night: The Tour. If all goes well Poker Night in Europe is right around the corner. You can find the show almost daily on CBS Sports Network as well as our regional TV partners: Comcast (Philadelphia, Chicago, Baltimore, D.C.), ROOT Sports (Pittsburgh, Houston, Seattle), and Altitude Sports in Denver.