The much-anticipated premier of “Poker Night in America’s” first-ever visit to Atlantic City debuted this week. Television cameras captured one of the most eclectic high-stakes cash-game lineups ever, with a mixture of successful players from the worlds of law, entertainment, finance, and of course — poker.
After six previous stops throughout the northeast, this marked the first time the popular television show had set up shop in New Jersey. All the action was recorded last January (2015) at the Golden Nugget Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City, a refurbished gem of resort on the South Jersey shore, adjacent to the marina. Unfortunately, the cold winter weather didn’t allow for any boating or visits to the beach. So, all the fun and excitement took place indoors around the poker table.
Predictably, this debut visit to Atlantic City attracted many of the most interesting players — both pro and amateur alike — from nearby metro areas, including New York and Philadelphia. Although not by design, the games were also stacked with female players. About half the table at any given time was made up of women. In previous shows, PNiA has held special events called “Ladies Nights.” However, this was the most female-centric open cash game ever televised. In fact, 6 of the 9 players who started this debut episode were women.
This week, the starting lineup included (listed alphabetically):
Linda Kenney Baden — One of the world’s most acclaimed criminal defense attorneys, who has worked on several high-profile cases, including most recently Casey Anthony and Phil Spector in their murder trials. This is her second appearance on the show, after booking a huge win at last at The Rivers Casino, in Pittsburgh.
Jessica Dawley — The professional poker player now residing in Florida has become one of the most popular and familiar faces on the show, by virtue of multiple appearances and savvy as a winning player. Dawley previously served in the U.S. Air Force before playing poker for a living. She is a sponsored pro with PNiA sponsor, 888poker.
Wendeen Eolis — A living legend with roots in poker that date back to the early 1980s, Eolis was the first woman in history ever to cash in the World Series of Poker Main Event. She’s been active ever since, that is, when her busy schedule allows. Eolis is the head of her own prestigious consulting firm based in New York City which recommends legal counsel to some of the most high-profile clients in the world, including everything from monarchies to the U.S. Government.
Jamie Kerstetter — A law school graduate (University of Michigan), Kerstetter worked in the legal field for a time in New Jersey before being led by her heart into the world of poker. She’s been playing professionally for about four years and has accumulated several major cashes and the respect of her peers. This is Kerstetter’s second time to play on PNiA.
Christine Pilcher — The darkhorse and clear fan favorite for this debut show is Christine Pilcher, who remarkably, won her seat onto the show in the big game by investing just $10 at the poker website 888poker, and winning a tournament which led to the paid entry fee and full travel expenses. Pilcher has never played anywhere near this level before, so it will be interesting to watch how she performed over the next few episodes.
Richard Roeper — One of the nation’s most respected film critics, known for his thumbs up or thumbs down reviews of major motion pictures and longtime association with movie reviewer Roger Ebert. The former columnist with the Chicago Sun-Times had appeared once previously on PNiA.
Dan Shak — The financier from Philadelphia is one of the most popular players on the tournament trail, with multiple wins and high finishes on his extensive poker resume. Shak’s career earnings from tournament poker alone currently exceeds $7 million. This is Shaks first time to play on the show.
Katie Stone — The poker pro and lively personality has played poker for a living both here in the U.S. and in Mexico. She is a founding member of the poker girl group, “the Grindettes,” which encourages more women to play the game and make things fun. This is Stone’s first PNiA appearance.
James Woods — The veteran Hollywood actor with a 45-year career in films and television has been nominated twice for an Academy Award. He’s appeared in more than 100 roles, including Casino, Ghosts of Mississippi, The Gambler, Once Upon a Time in America, and many other memorable films. Woods is also a passionate poker player who plays regularly in major tournaments and near his home in Los Angeles. This marks Woods’ first time to appear on PNiA.
Over the next five weeks, cash game action will continue being shown from Golden Nugget in Atlantic City. This fabulous lineup is expected to dominate the next three weeks of programming. Then, some seats will change and other players will be invited.
Be sure and catch the next segment of PNiA on Monday night, with repeats appearing regularly later in the week. WIth so many interesting players and their personalities, you won’t want to miss any of the action.
‘Til next week..