Filming commenced at the weekend for the Ladbrokes Poker Ladies European Open that is to be shown on Sky Sports in June and UK Poker News’ writer, Tony Bromham, was privileged to be asked to spend the day at the Riverside TV studios in Hammersmith, West London, and witness first hand some of the frantic goings-on behind the scenes that accompanies the organisation of such an event.
The set up and execution of a poker tournament in a TV studio might be best described as the equivalent of a swan’s feet paddling furiously below the surface of a river. All the while, the viewing public above the waterline experiences a scene easy on the eye, a serene creature enjoying a relaxing cruise alongside the reeds. Watching the “swan’s feet” made for a fascinating day.
During the previous evening, the players and organisers had convened at a cocktail reception in a West London Hilton hotel- courtesy of Ladbrokes - where the ice could be broken, players made to feel welcome and “Mad” Marty Wilson let loose in the name of entertainment. The draw for table positions was made during the evening which also enabled the players to look forward to or dread the coming day!
And so the following morning arrived, as did the players and organisers at the TV studios, many of them sporting hangovers! With a scheduled 12 noon start to the tournament, there was little time for recuperation. I walked into the foyer of the studio to find Ladbrokes Poker’s chief organiser, Nigel Blower, chatting to Roy”The Boy” Brindley, who will be commentating with Jesse May for TV. I also meet Samantha of Ladbrokes public relations who will be my guide and facilitate everything for me.
Winmedia International and Ladbrokes Poker will have spent many a week planning the morning’s preparations so what did they find? One of the studios and the Green Room were out of bounds until 12 noon due to the live filming and broadcast of Saturday kids programme, CD:UK! Cue the foyer and street outside milling with some of the most glamorous ladies to hit Hammersmith for a good long while. Fortunately, it was sunny at the time with a public house conveniently situated across the road.
Amongst the players on view were glamour model Leilani Dowding, poker presenter Rhowena Colclough, high stakes Finnish cash player, Johanna Pyysing, and several poker playing wives and girlfriends of more recognisable male counterparts. Support was therefore in evidence from the likes of Padraig Parkinson and Dave Welch. Jesse May in the commentary box would of course be displaying upstanding impartiality as Micky May battled away on screen! Also in evidence were formidable poker players, Mel Judah and Rory Liffey.
At around noon, the ladies were finally summoned to the studio to take their seats, of which there were 48, Table 4 being the TV table. We followed them in for a look at the set while everyone was miked up and the crew got into their positions. The Tournament Director for this event was the experienced Mags Manton, formerly Card Room Manager of the Merrion Casino Club in Dublin. She went through some of the important rules of etiquette and additional “dos and don’ts” in a TV studio. So off went the mobile telephones and other bleeping paraphernalia; under the tables went the bottles of water; off came the jackets of every player (as they apparently did not show up well on TV) and everyone was advised not to stand up when the camera passed their table, for fear of collision!
Players were advised to keep high-denomination chips to the front of their stacks, verbal declarations would be binding, out-of-turn bets would stand, and bets should be made in one movement unless the amount had already been declared. These mostly standard rules will not have been immediately obvious to many players here. For several, this was their first big live tournament of any kind, never mind the first filmed for TV! Some ladies openly admitted to being highly nervous at the outset, especially given the cash on offer and a place in the Poker Million up for grabs to the winner.
The studio itself was surprisingly small and nothing like its appearance on the monitors. The six tables were laid out and brightly lit. In front of the TV table, there was a jumble of cables, cameras and equipment operators, all pretty much knotted together in organised chaos in the space the size of a small kitchen. The whole studio was covered in black cloth except for eerily lit red display screens offering a Soho-style ambience.
We made our exit and headed for the now accessible Green Room as the order went out that the poker would begin imminently. For the ladies concerned, the day was just beginning!
Return soon to UK Poker News for the continuation of this tale of TV trauma and triumph!
Ed note: You can join the winning Ladbrokes Lady in the Poker Million when you download Ladbrokes Poker