'Real Deal!' offers audience shot at pros

Doyle Brunson
Play against the Texas Dolly at the Venetian's 'The Real Deal!"

Phil Hellmuth Jr. as Wayne Newton? Jennifer Harman in hot pants? Scotty Nguyen in drag? Gavin Smith as Varekai?

Well, not quite, but if the Venetian has anything to say about it, these poker stars and a few others might just be part of the next big thing in the Las Vegas show scene.

"The Real Deal!" is the first-ever interactive poker-themed stage show to appear in Vegas. Organizers are calling the show, which is set to debut this fall, a "new paradigm in entertainment."

Whatever that means, it sounds like the show should be pretty cool.

Using wireless handheld technology and audience participation, "The Real Deal!" is part theatre, part stand-up comedy and part game show. It will provide the audience the opportunity to play with and against some of the best poker players in the game for cash and prizes.

"The Venetian sets the standard for entertainment in Las Vegas and we are excited to add 'The Real Deal!' to our existing line-up of world-class shows," says Jason Gastwirth, vice president of entertainment for Las Vegas Sands Corp, the company which owns the Venetian.

"When looking for a new concept to add to our entertainment line-up, we searched for an entirely new experience that would promote audience participation while incorporating well-known personalities that shine beyond the bright lights of the Strip - we found that in 'The Real Deal!'"

The concept allows audience members to earn points to vie for prizes ranging from show merchandise to home electronics to a $1 million grand prize. These prizes are awarded to audience members based on their game performance using the handheld devices.

There are also random winning moments for everybody throughout the show. For example, audience members will be able to wager on simple instances that occur during play on stage. This includes such things as the suit of cards dealt on the flop.

The entire cast of poker pros signed on to do the show includes Doyle Brunson, Daniel Negreanu, Phil Hellmuth Jr., Antonio Esfandiari, Gavin Smith, Eli Elezra, Jennifer Harman, Phil Laak, Scotty Nguyen, and Todd Brunson.

Between them they have eight World Poker Tour Championships (WPT) and 35 World Series of Poker (WSOP) bracelets, and have raked in over $48 million in poker tournament prize money.

"Never before has poker been so integrated with entertainment," said Merv Adelson, the creator of the show, cofounder of Lorimar Telepictures and former vice chairman of Time Warner Inc.

"The popularity of poker is unquestioned, as is the viability of live game show experiences in Las Vegas. 'The Real Deal!' will keep guests laughing and give them the unique chance to get into the heads of the world's best pros as they share tips and strategy throughout the fast-paced game. We know it will quickly become a hot ticket."

An elimination process will result in the chip-leading pro, the final surviving amateur and the point leader from the play-along audience ending up on stage for a three-handed finale.

"Poker fans have been able to view and enjoy professional poker action for years on television," said Doyle Brunson. "This is different. Everyone in the audience can be in the game and compete with the pros and other guests. It is a one-of-a-kind-poker experience."

The production runs six days a week at The Venetian Showroom, with shows at 4 p.m. and prime-time performances on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. A limited number of VIP packages are available for each performance that include the opportunity to meet the pros after the show.

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