Over the weekend, a thread surfaced on PocketFives about a rumored poker reality series featuring Johnny Chan(pictured). PocketFives can confirm that the show, tentatively called “Full House,” is real and is currently being pitched to major networks for broadcast. A video preview that cropped up on YouTube linked in the original post began with Chan walking down a flight of stairs saying, “I am the most famous poker player in the world.”
The premise of the show is that five poker apprentices staying at Chan’s house are staked with $200,000 of the back-to-back World Series of Poker Main Event champ’s money. Each episode, two of the five will enter a nine-man live poker game in Las Vegas in which viewers of the show can compete against them. If at any time a contestant goes broke, they’re vanquished from the house and replaced with a new player.
The teaser is admittedly a bit over the top, but the show’s producer, Jay Ishimaru, told PocketFives in an exclusive interview, “The most common misconception regarding the video is that it is a trailer for Season 1. The video is actually a sizzle, which was not even targeting the viewers, but rather the TV networks. It is a demo, an exhibition of an idea. The people involved are not actors or reality stars, but actual ranked poker players who may or may not appear on the actual show.”
Ishimaru continued, “The premise of the show is a combination of reality TV and poker. It is about challenging viewers to go up against real poker pros. In a nutshell, it’s a reality-style game show. It was an honor to have Johnny Chan and Doyle Brunson (pictured) support that idea.” Brunson appears in the video and Ishimaru suggested that Daniel Negreanu and Phil Hellmuth are among others who could appear.
Ishimaru is the creator of the show and has been working on the idea for the last two years. He wrote, produced, and directed the entire concept and told PocketFives, “Before there was even a chance to pitch the show or before the reel was even created, we had offers from major TV networks. Unfortunately, those cannot be named, as negotiations are still ongoing.”
Ishimaru identified the target networks as “major” and not of a cable variety. The first offer from a TV network was for $500,000, but Ishimaru and company turned it down.
Despite the mixed reaction from the poker community, the show’s producer explained, “The majority of the reaction has been very positive, especially from Europe. There has been some criticism, as expected, but that is mostly due to the aforementioned misconception about the video. The public mistakes the sizzle reel for an actual trailer or pilot.”
The sizzle reel was shot in three days, leading Ishimaru to say, “There was only so much limited time because of the TV networks that were eager to see it.”
Ishimaru is targeting one-hour episodes, with about 20 of them comprising Season 1. At the end of the first season, a cast for Season 2 will be selected. The series will be filmed in Las Vegas, with the poker action taking place either at MGM Resorts International or Caesars Entertainment properties. Interested cast members can apply online through the network’s website or at the poker rooms where the show will be filmed. Both the network and filming locations are still to be determined.
Aside from games featuring Chan’s students, the show will follow poker players’ everyday lives and try to give an accurate account of the Vegas poker lifestyle.
Why now? Why is the time right for a poker reality show? Ishimaru explained, “Online poker has taken a decline over the last couple of years and cash games are coming back to life. The idea behind the show is something unique that has never been done before and one that combines two styles of TV.”