While you're hitting up the Sunday majors this weekend, make sure to turn on your television for the debut of the fifth season of "High Stakes Poker." The popular ring-game series is back after an extended hiatus, with A.J. Benza and Gabe Kaplan set to provide commentary once again. Also returning to action are several well-known poker pros, including Doyle Brunson, Antonio Esfandiari, Daniel Negreanu, Eli Elezra, and Phil Laak. This season, according to reports, features some of the best poker played thus far. Let's take a look at what you can expect when the show airs on Sunday, March 1st, at 9:00pm ET on GSN.
Some of the young guns of poker will take to the felts for the fifth edition of High Stakes Poker. They'll be flanked by several established stars making their first appearances on the televised ring game. Here is a partial list of new faces to the felts of the $200,000 buy-in cash game in which players put up their own money in order to compete:
Tom durrrrDwan(pictured at right): In the midst of the Million Dollar Challenge against Patrik Antonius, Dwan represents the young guard of poker. Dwan has two top 10 finishes to his name in tournament play on the World Poker Tour (WPT), a fourth place in the Foxwoods World Poker Finals during Season VI and a ninth place showing in the WPT Championship last April. The two in the money finishes combined for over $500,000. He's also appeared on NBC's "National Heads-Up Poker Championship."
Joe Hachem: The winner of the 2005 WSOP Main Event, Hachem took home $7.5 million and instantly became a household name. He defeated Steven Dannenmann heads-up, with Monthly PLB champion and Triple Crown winner Aaron gotcha55 Kanter taking fourth for $2 million. Hachem is a former winner on "Poker After Dark" and backed up his WSOP win with a victory at the Bellagio Five Diamond World Poker Classic during Season V of the WPT.
Howard Lederer: "The Professor" makes his High Stakes Poker debut during Season 5. Lederer owns a pair of WSOP bracelets, which came in tournaments held in 2000 and 2001. When many PocketFivers first started watching poker on television, Lederer became a household name. He won not one, but two tournaments during the inaugural WPT series (World Poker Finals and PartyPoker Million).
Peter Eastgate (pictured at right): The Danish poker pro became the youngest WSOP Main Event winner ever last November at age 22, shattering UltimateBetpro Phil Hellmuth's standing record of 24. Eastgate's bankroll received a $9.1 million boost and he became the sole survivor of the first ever "November Nine." In January, Eastgate proved that his WSOP success was no fluke, taking down a $5,000 preliminary event held during the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure.
Dario Minieri: I still laugh every time ESPN announcer Norman Chad cracks a Harry Potter joke when Minieri dons his trademark scarf. His tournament game, however, is no laughing matter. Minieri took down his first WSOP bracelet last year in a $2,500 No Limit Hold'em Six-Handed tournament, besting Seth Fischer heads-up. Minieri has three third place finishes in European Poker Tour (EPT) events to his name (Baden, San Remo, and Warsaw) for nearly $800,000 total. The Italian took 96th in the 2007 WSOP Main Event.
Sam Simon: The Co-Creator of "The Simpsons" television series, Simon finished 329th in the 2007 WSOP Main Event for $39,000. He also finished 16th in a $1,000 rebuy tournament the same year for $35,000. His non-profit, the Sam Simon Foundation, raises money to help save the lives of dogs and was a subject of a feature on CBS News program "60 Minutes."
Other newcomers to Season 5 of High Stakes Poker include Ilari Sahamies, David Peat, and Alan Meltzer. The show was filmed at the Golden Nugget in Downtown Las Vegas, which was also the site of its first season. Joining them on the felts are “The Notebook” director Nick Cassavetes, PocketFiver Barry barryg1Greenstein (pictured at left), Phil Ivey, Patrik Antonius, Erick Lindgren, Paul Wasicka, and Bodog pro David Williams. A total of 13 episodes will air, each one hour in length.
According to GSN's online programming guide, High Stakes Poker episodes will run between 6:00pm and 10:00pm ET on Sunday night. A tournament from the sixth season of the WPT will air from 10:00pm to Midnight ET, followed by an encore of High Stakes Poker. Check your local listings for time and channel information.
Also debuting on Sunday night is the second installment of "The Celebrity Apprentice," which features PocketFiver Annie Duke (pictured at right). She'll be raising money for Refugees International, an offshoot of Ante Up for Africa. Also appearing on the show are country music singer Clint Black, Playboy Playmate of the Year Brande Roderick, former standout running back Herschel Walker, Joan and Melissa Rivers, comedian Tom Green, and former basketball star Dennis Rodman. "The Celebrity Apprentice" airs on NBC, also at 9:00pm ET on Sunday, and runs for two hours.
Over on ESPN2, Sunday at 10:00pm ET marks the beginning of the end for the WSOP Europe Main Event. The finale, which actually took 21 hours to play, will run for two hours on the cable network. The winner takes home $1.6 million. Among those who will battle it out in London are Daniel Negreanu, John Juanda, Scott emptyseat88 Fischman, and Ivan Demidov. Norman Chad and Lon McEachern have the call.