Filming took place last weekend for the Ladbrokes Poker Ladies European Open that is to be shown on Sky Sports in June. UK Poker News’ writer Tony Bromham continues his account of his day at the Riverside TV studios in Hammersmith as he looks further behind the TV scenes.
So now it was Midday, plus a little bit more because of the problems the organisers had encountered gaining access to parts of the studios where some live broadcasting of a children’s TV programme was taking place. The 48 ladies who were competing for cash and the right to a seat in the Ladbrokes Poker Million V had been ushered into their seats in the claustrophobic confines of the TV studio and the rest of us had retreated to the safety of the Green Room – now mercifully available in the aftermath of an exodus of teenagers – and the sanctuary of a cold pint of Guinness.
The Green Room is a mystical place, yet basically a bar with seats and grubby green walls! No matter, Samantha, my kindly PR Manager from Ladbrokes Poker, was on hand to buy the drinks and we got talking about the poker industry, what plans are afoot and so on. Intriguingly, it appears that Ladbrokes are approaching their 500,000,000th online poker hand in a matter of days from now and there is to be a handsome prize on offer for the player holding the winning cards of that landmark hand, comprising cash and a seat in a super-satellite for the WSOP. There are also prizes for certain other hands dealt. All in all, that seems to be an adequate excuse to hook up and play some hands on Ladbrokes Poker in the coming days!
After a while, a widescreen monitor flickered to life and we got to see some of the early action on the TV table as it happened live. As I would discover later, the majority of this footage would be destined for the digital equivalent of the cuttings bin. For now, it was a little peculiar to see on TV the very same people I had seen in the flesh, and in some cases spoken to, not half an hour earlier!
The initial TV table comprised the following 8 ladies complete with Ladbrokes Poker nicknames:
Vivi “katten79” Saethren
Chloe “ravenmaiden” Bailey
Patricia “patsypop” McClean
Micky “sungoddess” May
Beverley “cbass” Pace
Johanna “BlowJo” Pyysing
Jacqueline “Jackie” Dwan
Leilani “TheVixen” Dowding
There were plenty of capable players amongst that group, not least Finland’s Johanna Pyysing who I was reliably informed plays some very high stakes live poker and was not to be messed with!
Soon some intriguing pots built and the best will be reserved for the TV programmes on Sky Sports in June and July which are being shown as a prelude to the big one, the Ladbrokes Poker Million V. So, I won’t spoil it for you here!
Some famous names in poker milled around the Green Room. Padraig Parkinson and Rory Liffey from Ireland were here in support. Mel Judah, Mad Marty Wilson and Dave Welch too. Some of these players had other halves playing on the big screen while others took an interest in the filming procedure.
Breaks in play were quite frequent enabling the TV and production crews to make changes and get organised. The ladies took their opportunity to grab some refreshments. Soon, some of the early victims of failed all-in coups began their lonely walks to the bar seeking drinks and consolation.
After the dinner break and a change in TV table personnel, I took a walk up some stairs and around deserted corridors in search of the commentary position. In my mind, I imagined a miniature version of the bridge of the Starship USS Enterprise. In reality, I found an empty room with bits and pieces lying about on the floor. Against one wall were stacked three or four monitors on a table, adjacent to a couple of gentlemen who go by the names of Jesse May and Roy Brindley, microphones in hand!
Roy and Jesse welcomed me to the grim realities of the commentary position. The monitors showed split screens with the hands of each active player on the TV table on view. Neither commentator seemed to be saying a lot. In fact they were listening to the Director’s instructions through their headphones before being told what shot is the subject of attention. Then Jesse and Roy would kick in with their distinctive double act that we know and love from the TV broadcasts.
Roy explained that, throughout the time at the monitors, they can always hear the frantic tones of the Director of TV barking out the orders to the cameramen, the commentators and who knows who else. Often this includes an order to Jesse and Roy to stop talking but of course either one may be in mid-spiel. As this oratory is key to the enjoyment of the viewing TV public, it is vital that the sentence is finished without sounding like someone interrupted. Roy explained that getting used to handling this was hellish in the early days but get used to it he did.
I was in the room for only a short while as I didn’t want to impose on the men at work. Needless to say, it was fascinating to watch the technique in play and my hat is certainly off to the commentators.
I wandered down to the foyer of the building and found various huddles of Green Room refugees, including some of the aforementioned poker players having a chat amongst themselves so I had a word about future interviews.
My last port of call on the day was the TV outside broadcast truck. Crammed into another small space were five people and a bank of TV screens adorning the front of this “room”, each screen representing a separate camera angle. In front of this impressive display was the Director, Martin Turner, standing tall and conducting the whole operation like an auctioneer on speed, pointing at screens and ordering cameras to zoom in on a player or switch the angle of table shot. Then there would be an order for Roy Brindley to stop talking, at which point I could finally appreciate how difficult it must be to commentate lucidly while this man is on the case via the headphones!
Behind the Director was Producer, Phil Marshall, apparently monitoring the camera work and quality of play at the tables and instantly deciding whether or not the hand and resulting few seconds of film are worthy of inclusion in the future highlights. Both Martin and Phil are veterans of the Poker Million broadcasts.
This was an eye-opener for me who, up until now, had only seen poker broadcasts from the glossy side. I thoroughly enjoyed my day and, on behalf of UK Poker News, I wish to thank everyone involved, especially Roy Brindley for the initial invite, Samantha for her help and attention on the day, Ian Langstaff of Winmedia International and all those who made my life easier on the day.
The next time I watch a poker programme on TV, I’ll certainly see it in a different light.
Ed note: The 500,000,000th hand is coming soon so download Ladbrokes Poker for a chance to bag some big prizes