The mere fact that any network would entertain the notion of a weekly half-hour of poker news is itself an indicator of the extent to which our beloved mutt poker has surprisingly dog-paddled its way into the cultural mainstream. What are we supposed to think of this? In truth, it is very difficult for those of us who are fully immersed in poker and the poker media to have any sort of reliable perspective when it comes to judging a show like “Poker2Nite.”
Someone like me -- not only already familiar with practically all of the news and stories that appear on the show, but also with the now-lengthy “pokertainment” careers of the show’s hosts Scott Huff and Joe Sebok -- will necessarily have a hard time making any sort of objective-sounding statements about the show’s quality (that is, to guess how the show probably looks to someone not like me).
The situation makes me think of having once seen a feature-length article in the late 1990s in The New Yorker about the group The Shaggs.
The Shaggs were this little group of teenaged sisters (the Wiggins) who were encouraged by their father to cut an album back in 1969 called Philosophy of the World. The album -- full of oddball songs like “Who Are Parents?” and “My Pal Foot Foot” -- would have certainly disappeared without a trace had not Frank Zappa, guest hosting The Dr. Demento Show in 1973, played “My Pal Foot Foot” and voiced praise for the band.
Gradually The Shaggs (who never made another record) developed a cult following. Later on, the iconoclastic Zappa would dub Philosophy of the World the third-greatest album of all time. Like others, I found The Shaggs through Zappa and came to appreciate their decidedly amateurish but weirdly infectious LP. It’s one of those you-have-to-hear-it-to-believe-it-type records that causes most to wonder “is this a joke?” (A question which is itself, one could say, a starting point for developing a philosophy of the world.)
Anyhow, I remember not knowing how to react when I saw The New Yorker piece. It was as if something the essential nature of which was private had suddenly been rudely exposed for all to examine. “How could this possibly play to a wider audience?” I wondered. “No one is gonna get it.”
Actually, I think I can say the prospects that people are going to “get” “Poker2Nite” are much better. The show is styled after other sports news shows like “Sportscenter” or the like, with Huff and Sebok seated behind a desk (most of the time) delivering stories, conducting interviews, and introducing prepackaged segments from the field (or “on fifth street,” as Sebok calls his segments).
The first episode (11/18) featured pieces on the WSOP Main Event conclusion, a short interview with Joe Cada by Lacey Jones, an longer interview with Lon McEachern by the hosts, and a report on Tom “durrrr” Dwan’s signing with Full Tilt Poker. The second (11/25) had some talk about Isildur1, a report from an Annie Duke-hosted charity tournament, an interview with Andy Bloch, and a bit about how poker players celebrate Thanksgiving. Last week’s show (12/2) mostly concerned the delay of the banks’ compliance with the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act, including an interview with Poker Players Alliance Executive Director John Pappas.
No surprise to see Huff -- always terrific with the podcasts (in my opinion) -- function as a great host for this sort of thing. He looks to me as though he’s ready to step in over at the Fox Sports desk at any moment. Trying to imagine how those unfamiliar with PokerRoad or Huff or Sebok or even poker are going to view all of this, I’m guessing most who stumble onto FSN and see Huff are going to think he looks a little young but is a fine, capable host. They might even think like me and find him funny and likable.
Next to Huff, Sebok appears relatively less polished and/or comfortable, and I’m not certain how he comes off to the wider audience. I’m a big Sebok fan, but I ain’t sure how others operating the remote control are responding. This is where I think of The Shaggs a bit, and have to admit that, yeah, their guitars are a little out of tune. Okay, a lot out of tune. And yeah, I know, little Dot Wiggins’ voice sounds a little weird.
Okay, maybe more than a little.
I think even more along those lines watching Dana Workman’s “Weekly Misdeal” segment included in each episode, kind of the analogue to “The Tight Laydown with Joe Stapleton” that appears at the end of each episode of The Poker Beat podcast. I’m not seeing any credits for “Poker2Nite” to clarify, but I know I’ve heard Stapleton is involved with the show and am going to guess he’s writing those lines for Workman, most of which concern inside jokes about the poker world. I generally like Stapleton’s humor, but I’m not going to lie and say I’ve laughed all that much thus far at the “Weekly Misdeal.”
But hey, like The Shaggs sing, “It doesn’t matter where you go / It doesn’t matter who you see / There will always be / Someone who disagrees.”
I’m glad “Poker2Nite” is on FSN and I did enjoy watching the first three eps. But I haven’t a decent perspective on any of this, really. I can say that while I had misgivings about seeing that piece on The Shaggs in The New Yorker, I’m genuinely glad for the PokerRoad guys’ increased exposure on “Poker2Nite.” And optimistic about the show’s potential moving forward.
And like I say, I know for certain that Huff, Sebok, et al. have a much, much greater chance at achieving mainstream appeal than The Shaggs ever did. Don’t believe me? Here, listen to the title track from the third-greatest album ever: