In a game of chance, nobody likes a wild card, but Josh Arieh kept his cool and faced down the secret "wild card" inclusion of Daniel Negreanu at the Fox Sports Net (FSN) televised "Calvin Ayre Wild Card Poker" final table to win $500,000. Arieh, a professional poker player, outlasted 40 other players to take home the top prize.
The "Calvin Ayre Wild Card Poker" was hosted by Calvin Ayre, founder and CEO of Bodog.com, at the Bodog compound in Costa Rica in an effort to find America's "most promising poker player." It featured 10 celebrities, 10 poker professionals, and 20 Bodog.com players battling for a spot at the final table and the $500,000 first place prize.
Each of the first five episodes featured a single game where contestants played for $50,000 and a seat at the final table. Players who were eliminated also had a second chance to win a spot during a consolation round.
Arieh's game was featured in episode III where he went up against celebrities Joshua Malina of "The West Wing," actress Kelly Ann Hu, and "Extra" co-host Jon Kelley. Other competitors included Lily Mizrachi, wife of pro player Michael Mizrachi, and online players Paige Krivacic, Wes Deaver, and Brian Krux.
Arieh, a Bodog.com-sponsored player, was the first pro to win a preliminary table after actress Cheryl Hines outlasted Humberto Brenes and Erick Lindgren in the first episode, and online player Bret Oliverio beat Michael Mizrachi in the second.
Arieh admitted to having benefited from a few tips from Lindgren going into his game.
"I was fortunate that Erick played early, and I knew what to expect where he didn't know what to expect," Arieh said on the Calvin Ayre website. "So I got a few pointers from him - thanks Erick - and there was definitely some good fortune on my side."
That fortune followed him to the final table where he went up against Hines and Oliverio; poker pros David Williams, Evelyn Ng, and Michael Mizrachi; actor Rob Mariano from "Survivor: Marquesas" and "Survivor: All-Stars"; online player Wes Deaver; and the surprise addition of "Kid Poker" Negreanu.
"The competition at this table couldn't have been any tougher. The Internet players who were at the table were the best, the celebrities at the table were the best, and between the pros at the table, shoot, we might have $20 million in winnings," Arieh said in his post-match interview. "The whole thing has been a real blast."
Plans are already in the works for a second season of "Calvin Ayre Wild Card Poker." Anyone interested in becoming a contestant can find more information at www.calvinayre.com.