As reported a few days ago at UK Poker News, the brand new “concept” of the Poker Dome was unleashed to American TV audiences by Fox Sports Net in association with the might of Mansionpoker.net.
UK Poker News has now kindly been sent a DVD of the first show which was won by the UK’s own Rhowena Colclough. We thank Mansion and “TV Poker” of Las Vegas for sending it to us. Having wondered what the ballyhoo was all about, we can now see for ourselves.
To an extent, we are lucky in the UK as we already have superbly produced TV shows in a six-shooter format – the likes of the Ladbrokes Poker Million, William Hill Grand Prix and the British Poker Open all spring to mind, and some of these are shown live. America has tended to stick to the tried and trusted final tables of the huge tournaments such as WPT, recorded and heavily edited down to give an unrealistic impression of what a poker tournament is all about with the hourly grind of no good cards and regular folding of the junk.
The Poker Dome tournament does show some ordinary cards and uneventful betting as almost every hand is aired but it is entirely different from an “ordinary” game of poker, and a million miles from a WPT marathon. For one, it is played in the Speed Poker™ format so, even if it were relayed live, there are no interminable delays and players are immediately given a short, sharp turn on the roasting spit if they have a decision to make. To be precise, 15 seconds are available to declare a fold, call or raise!
Speed Poker™ has some special rules. The pre-flop action is dictated by Pot Limit rules, so bluffing and stealing become harder to do as players are limited in the size of their raises. This encourages more flops which is TV-friendly and should give an advantage to the more skilful player. After the flop, the play reverts to No Limit rules.
Each player has the mandatory 15 seconds to make a decision and there is a prominent LED gauge on each player’s portion of the table adding a visible reminder to their agony. To finally induce a heart attack, a shrill bleep goes off as time-up approaches! Each player has a once-only 30-second time extension for which they have a special button to press. This they will use for a critical moment of decision. Once the table is heads-up, the two remaining players have their once-only 30 seconds option reinstated.
There are two dealers to ensure an instant dealing of new cards as the old ones are gathered in and shuffled.
All-in-all, the offline and online worlds are coming together in the Poker Dome!
The setting for the tournament is a small enclosure with a one-way mirror on one side enabling the studio audience to see the players. The players themselves cannot hear the audience as they are effectively enclosed in a soundproofed “dome”. The lighting within the dome is highly reminiscent of “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?” with the swinging blue spotlights moving into position before each hand is dealt. The ghost of Chris Tarrant hung around and the only other feature missing was the familiar refrain of music that precedes the next question. In the Poker Dome, the players are on their own and no-one gets to ask the audience if they should call!
In Show number 1, three of the six players, all of whom had qualified through Mansion Poker, were British, albeit one now lives in Gibraltar. There was also a WSOP Bracelet winner, Brian Wilson.
Of the three British players, Rhowena Colclough was best known as a Poker 425 presenter and wife of Dave Colclough, one of Europe’s top professional players. Also present was Peter Lawler, a TV Producer, and Jonathan Sullivan, apparently carrying an advantage as a Poker Consultant – quite a pressure to bear on a poker TV show!
Apart from Brian Wilson, the other Americans were Frank Lacava, a restaurant owner, and Paul Dreyer, a mathematician, and the most talkative at the table.
In early play, Rhowena Colclough hunkered down and folded everything leaving Brian Wilson to raise with the junk hands. Mostly, there was little aggression on show until three players suddenly found a flop to call all-in with.
Brian Wilson with KcJc, Frank Lacava with KhQh and Peter Lawler with AcQs all saw a flop of Qc9h3c. Wilson pushed all-in with his flush draw and gutshot straight draw. However, the others adopted the “top pair, all-in” approach and called. Of course, they may also have been aware that Wilson is capable of a bluff. Lawler was in good shape but a club on the turn and a blank on the river enabled Wilson to accumulate chips and eliminate Lawler. Lacava struggled thereafter to recover.
All the while, Rhowena Colclough sat back and commanded respect. Her first raise was met by universal folding. Her 66 might as well have been AA.
Wilson’s lead fell away as he was unable to make headway. His demise came with QQ which he bet out with all the way despite an ace on the flop. Sullivan’s A9 became a full house and Wilson’s chips left home.
Big-stack Jonathan Sullivan disposed of all of the other players leaving Rhowena coasting into a heads-up contest although she had already begun to play aggressively pre-flop. The chips were now 239,000 against Colclough’s 61,000 so a double up was essential. She achieved that with Ah3h which made the flush. Straight after this, Colclough showed no fear when her 20,000 raise with A9 was met by a re-raise from Sullivan putting Colclough all-in if she called. On the basis that A9 is a big heads-up hand, she obliged. Sullivan’s A7 looked sick and so did Sullivan who was clearly amazed at the call from Colclough.
Sullivan was now short-stacked but doubled up with 55 v A7. It did not last long. Colclough took the spoils with another nice hand, AK, which once again found Sullivan with an ace of his own, only the kicker was again the 7. He will probably have nightmares about A7 from now on!
Rhowena Colclough won $25,000 and returns for Show number 7 which is the first “semi-final” featuring the winners of the first six heats. The winner of that will receive a further $50,000 and will progress to the grand final which is a winner-takes-all $1,000,000 shoot-out.
The Mansionpoker.net Poker Dome is glitzy and fast and it is certainly made and tailored for American TV. The audiences should lap it up and Mansion Poker can expect to garner many more players on their poker site. It should be only a matter of time before the Poker Dome appears at a satellite or cable channel in the UK.
Ed note: Who wants to be a millionaire? Download Mansion Poker here for two exclusive UK Poker News freerolls to the Mansion Poker Dome