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Amanda Finnegan

Venetian bringing 'Real Deal' to poker fans

15 October 2008

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- Small-time poker players are getting a chance to try their luck against high-stakes players. A few will make it to the tables with the likes of poker world champs.

The Venetian is giving poker aficionados and first-timers a shot at prizes with its live, audience participation show, "The Real Deal!," which begins today.

Staged in The Venetian Showroom, "The Real Deal!" will combine elements of a game show, including comedy and celebrities, with serious Texas Hold 'Em skills.

Audience members will watch a 90-minute poker tournament while participating from a wireless, touch-screen device. Participants will have the chance to win "The Real Deal!" merchandise, electronics, jewelry and even $1 million.

The show will be hosted by stand-up comic Paul Rodriguez, with pro-player Lacey Jones as his assistant.

Producer Merv Adelson credits the rise in poker popularity outside the casino walls to the syndication of the "World Poker Tour" and celebrity poker shows. The Venetian hopes to cash in on that same popularity.

"It's going to bring out all sorts of people; from the very experienced player to someone who has never thrown a chip in the pot. The show will play to everyone," Adelson said.

The pro roster includes legendary players like Doyle Brunson, Daniel Negreanu, Phil Hellmuth Jr., Antonio Esfandiari, Gavin Smith, Eli Elezra, Jennifer Harman, Phil Laak, Scotty Nguyen and Todd Brunson. Two of the 10 pros will rotate through the table each night.

"The Real Deal!" goes like this: At the beginning of each show, six random members of the audience will be chosen to sit at the table with the pros. The rest of the audience members will play as the "virtual" ninth player from the comfort of their seats.

Audience members will play with points rather than chips -- each beginning with 100,000 points -- and will try to rack up more points, with monitors throughout the set keeping track of the action.

From their seats, players can only call or fold, but those sitting at the table can raise.

The biggest pot of the night will come at the end of the show when select members will have an opportunity to be dealt a royal flush, netting the grand prize of $1 million. A straight flush will win a $75,000 diamond bracelet.

As for the chance of an inexperienced poker player winning a World Series-sized pot, Adelson said he thinks the odds are pretty good.

"The average golfer couldn't go out and challenge Tiger Woods in golf; it would be impossible," Adelson said. "Could the average poker player beat Brunson on any given night? Sure, depending on their luck."