The Key West room of the Palms was divided into tow sections. A third of the room to the right housed the set for the announcers booth and the losers lounge. During the taping, Celebrity Poker Host Dave Foley and Phil Gordon would give commentary from the desk. A few feet away was the set for the losers lounge where players would wait once they were eliminated for the tournament There was a large couch and table along with monitors showing the poker action taking place on the main stage. The stars in the losers lounge were encouraged to comment on the action taking place during the remainder of the tournament.
The main set held the stage with the poker table where the tournament would take place. There were bleachers set up in a horseshoe surrounding the table in the front and on both sides. At the back of the stage was the curtain which displayed the Celebrity Poker Challenge logo. The players would make their entrance from there to the table.
There were several monitors in place around the bleachers so the spectators sitting in the stands could watch what the cameras were taping as the director called the shots from the production truck. There were about sixteen cameras used to tape the show. On the main set there were three camera movable tripods stationed around the table. There were also two cameramen with handheld units to get in for the close ups of the celebrities during the action. Behind the bleachers in the front was a camera on a large boom that would get the wide overhead shots of the table. One stationary camera was mounted on the beams over the table that would show the community cards being turned up by the dealer. Finally the poker table contained five small cameras for taping the two hole cards held by the players.
The shots from the table cameras showing the players hole cards were only seen in the production truck during the taping of the show. There is no way the audience or even the announcers knew what cards the players were holding during the live play. During the final editing of the show these shots with be put in and the commentary of Dave Foley and Phil Gordon will be added into the finished episodes before they are aired.
Instructions to the Stars.
Before the audience was allowed to enter there were some last minute instructions given to the players. Producer Andrew Hill Newman took the dealers seat at the poker table on the stage and instructed the celebrities to draw chips numbered 1 5 for their seating at the table. They then took their respected seats and Andrew went over the rules of the games and the procedures that would be used during taping. He also instructed them as to how to look at their two hole cards so they would be picked up by the camera in the table. During the actual taping of the show several would have to be reminded to position their cards correctly for the cameras to see.
He introduced the players to Tournament Director Robert Thompson who would call all the action during the match and make sure all rules were being followed. He would also answer any questions they may have about the amounts of the bets or raises that were made. Finally he told them they would be introduced in alphabetical order along with the name of the charity they were playing for. The players then made their way back stage top wait for the introductions and the start of the tournament. The audience was let in to take their seats.
After everyone was seated, comedian Ray Ellin took the stage to do the audience warm up. Ray was honored as one of the "Ten Standout Stand-Ups Worth Watching" by Back Stage magazine and has appeared on HBO's "Chris Rock Show," Foxs "Fox X-Press," ABC's "Primetime Live," and NBCs "Friday Night" He did his comedy routine for about 10 minutes as the production crew got ready for the show. He explained to the audience that unlike other shows where silence was requested during taping, the Celebrity Poker Challenge encouraged the audience to make noise, clap yell and cheer for their favorite player. After the warm up the actual taping began.
The spectators watched the shows opening intro and credits on the monitor and then the announcer introduced the players in order. After they were seated host Dave Foley came on stage and spoke briefly with the Stars while explaining to the viewers that they were competing for a share of the Cingular Wireless jackpot. After Dave exited the stage, the game got under way when Tournament Director Robert Thompson instructed the dealer to Shuffle up and deal!
I was required to sign a confidentially statement so I am not able to write about any specific hands that were played. One thing that was different from other tournaments is that there was a break after each level. This was good for the players and spectators but added quite a bit of time to the actual match.