Alaskans warm up to TV poker show

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No network is safe from poker, not even those in the far reaches of the north. The Alaska Poker Showcase is the latest Hold'em program to hit the airwaves, with weekly episodes modeled after the World Poker Tour scheduled to run at the end of the month.

The show is the brainchild of Lazy Mountain Television producer Bob Elyard, who told local newspaper the Anchorage Daily News that the show will feature a weekly 10-table tournament where winners square off to earn a seat at the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas.

The Alaska Poker Showcase will make its debut on the local Channel 303 station, a place where, according to the news report, Alaskans go to find weather updates and coverage of local government meetings.

"This is something I've been wanting to do all my life in broadcasting," Elyard told the paper. "To set out and do something beyond the norm is exciting."

Elyard promises each episode will include commentary and analysis of poker strategy and hand odds. Local Texas Hold'em pros will be the North's Vince Van Patten and Mike Sexton.

Games won't be live but, like the WPT, will be filmed and have commentary cut in before being broadcast a few times each week. The show will also employ another practice pioneered by Steve Lipscomb and the folks at the WPT: hole cameras.

The show's producer, whose name has yet to be officially announced, is buying cameras to film players' pocket cards to give audiences further insight into the action. Elyard and the producer are still searching for a venue in the region.

Eventually, Elyard told the Anchorage Daily News, he hopes to make the show available to other stations. But for now it will only be broadcast on Channel 303 and on the Matanuska Telephone Association's digital TV lineup. Later in the year, those who don't subscribe to MTA will be able to watch the action unfold online when Elyard launches his Internet simulcast.

Nonetheless, Alaska is not known for being a poker-friendly state. Only free games - those without a buy-in and that don't require a cover charge, drink minimum or food purchase - are considered legal.

Still, stiff regulations haven't deterred Alaskan poker fans. The state has its own poker association with more than 800 members.

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