Discovery Channel ditched the TV reality show ‘Underground Poker’ featuring Phil Laak and Antonio Esfandiari after just one episode.
It was fun while it lasted…or was it? Discovery Channel certainly didn’t think so.
The famous worldwide TV network abandoned the idea of bringing the thrills of the underground poker games into the people’s homes. According to Antonio Esfandiari’s Twitter account, the TV channel passed on ‘Underground Poker’ after airing the pilot episode on September 10, 2014.
Asked if he has any news about the reality show, if the show will continue to air, Esfandiari responded plainly:
@kingofkards1 Looks like a no go my friend :-(
— Antonio Esfandiari (@MagicAntonio) October 3, 2014
The news was confirmed by PokerListings’ editor Arthur Crowson who got the chance to talk with ‘The Magician’ about the future of the project.
The pilot episode aired during a special Discovery poker-themed night and featured good friends and two of the most popular poker players in the world – Esfandiari and Phil Laak – finding and playing private, high-stakes underground games in the city of New Orleans.
The show was intended to reveal the exciting and dangerous lives of the two as they travel across America in search of live nosebleeds games. Unfortunately, few were impressed by the first episode.
Although Esfandiari stated many times that all the action surrounding the show was real with no scripting whatsoever (including in the teaser which you can watch underneath), many members of the 2+2 forums complained about the poor acting play of the characters. Staged, trying too hard to create tension, isn’t good for poker, very fake, terrible, typical reality TV conventions are just some of the words posted in this topic about the reality show.
Of course, it’s very hard to think that any of the organizers of an underground poker game will ever accept cameras and microphones with open arms. Organizing such games is illegal in many states so it’s hard to imagine why anyone would look for unwanted attention from the media. In fact, it is very likely that the underground games played by the two main characters in New Orleans and televised on Discovery Channel won’t happen again.
Esfandiari himself admitted that the TV reality show is actually a work in progress and still much has to be done before it can become a box-office hit (if EVER):
With any TV series, the first show is never going to be great.
The idea of a series that goes underground first popped up a few years back during a Hollywood filming. In a PokerNews interview, ‘The Magician’ explained that he and Laak met with Runner Runner produce Jennifer Killoran and talked with her about what would become ‘Underground Poker’. And what started like a five-minute teaser turned out to be a whole pilot aired by Discovery. Unfortunately, the episode didn’t bring the success they needed.
Yet the two poker players are optimistic about the future and believe that given the time, they can do better and deliver a great product. They are currently seeking other networks to pick up the series and help them return to the big stage once more. Both of them were part of the famous TV shows High Stakes Poker and Poker After Dark which aired till 2011.
Can they do it?