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Gaming Guru

Jeff Haney

Behind the Scenes of New 'King of Vegas' Reality Show

19 December 2005

An amateur gambler is competing heads-up against a professional bettor.

Who feels more pressure?

And who is more likely to let the pressure affect him (or her)?

That's the conflict at the heart of the TV series "King of Vegas," which debuts next month on Spike (Cox cable channel 29). It concluded production last week in a temporary studio constructed in the parking lot behind Bally's.

"Just because someone is an amateur, or an 'unknown' as I like to call them, doesn't mean he's not a skilled gambler," Henderson-based TV sports prognosticator Wayne Allyn Root said on the "King of Vegas" set. "I'll take our unknowns, stack them up against the pros and give them a shot."

Root, who conceived the concept for the show, will co-host with Max Kellerman, best known as a boxing analyst and TV sports talk show host. Root also serves as co-executive producer with Michael Yudin and Brian Gadinsky, formerly of "American Idol."

"King of Vegas" will air at 10 p.m. Tuesdays on Spike, the channel geared toward a male audience that runs programming such as "The Ultimate Fighter" and "Maximum Exposure."

Billed as a gambling reality show, "King of Vegas" will premiere Jan. 17. There are 10 episodes, and the first episode will air seven times in the first week. It features 12 contestants -- a mix of unknown amateurs and professional gamblers, including poker players and blackjack tournament experts -- competing for a winner-take-all $1 million prize.

Among the games are craps, blackjack, roulette, baccarat, Caribbean Stud poker, pai gow poker and Red Dog, a variation of acey-deucey. A short-handed Texas hold 'em mini-tournament serves as a sort of grand finale.

I raised the objection that most of those games rely on pure luck, leading to outcomes that are essentially random rather than an indicator of gambling skill.

But Root countered by explaining the show is set up like a gambling tournament, with one player advancing and the others knocked out.

A tournament requires a different but equally rigorous set of gambling skills. It involves playing primarily against your opponents rather than the casino, monitoring how many chips each player has, and sizing your bets accordingly.

"No. 1, you have to be aggressive," Root said. "You have to be willing to put all your chips in when the situation calls for it. And No. 2, you have to be able to play under pressure.

"You might think the pros won't feel any pressure, but do they really want to be embarrassed by losing to an amateur?"

* * *

Talented but flaky NBA star Ron Artest might work out his differences with the Indiana Pacers after all. His agent said over the weekend that Artest does not want to be traded -- an apparent reversal from Artest's previous stance.

Meanwhile, gamblers can bet on which team Artest will be dealt to, with the New York Knicks a 3-1 favorite at offshore book

Trading for Artest would carry huge risks for any NBA team. Among other transgressions, Artest charged into the stands and fought with Detroit Pistons fans last year, and asked the Pacers for vacation time from the team so he could promote his rap album.

Artest is a 9-1 shot to go to the Dallas Mavericks, 11-1 to go to the Chicago Bulls and 10-1 to be traded to the Denver Nuggets, the L.A. Clippers, the L.A. Lakers or the Philadelphia 76ers.