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Late night poker is back on our TV screens - so the Echo's Sarah Welsh took lessons from two lady experts to find out if it really is a man's game.

IN Poker, if you haven't spotted the sucker at the table within 10 minutes, then you're it, so the saying goes.

But considering my hand was almost "the nuts", in poker lingo (the best hand you can get with the cards on the table), when I sat down to play a hand with the producer and director of cult Channel 4 programme Late Night Poker, I didn't do too badly.

Of course, it did take them a while to explain the rules to such a poker novice, and there is a possibility my full house was due to the cards not being shuffled thoroughly, but it could have been worse.

The poker professionals who sit at the famous glass-topped table to film the week-long tournament at Enfys television studios on an industrial estate in Splott, are in a different league though.

David "Devilfish" Ulliot, Simon "Aces" Trumper, Barmy Barry Boatman, and Phil Hellmuth, otherwise known as "The Brat" are just a few of the aggressive personalities.

To give you some idea of the calibre of the 49 players who descend on Cardiff to make each series, Phil Hellmuth - who won the third series - has won the poker world series in Las Vegas seven times.

The fourth series of post-pub hit Late Night Poker has just started on Thursdays after midnight on Channel Four. The brainchild of producer Robert Gardner, the show is made by Cardiff-based production company Presentable.

The current show being aired was filmed in April, but such is the popularity of Late Night Poker that a fifth series is already being edited, having been recorded in September.

Director Sian G Williams, originally from Dinas Powys, said:

"We were keen to put poker on the TV and Channel 4 were up for it, but we knew it had to be in a unique format.

"Poker has been televised in America where it's really popular, but we knew the key to Late Night Poker would be that the viewer can see the players' cards so we developed the glass top table.

"It's a standard round table with a glass rim and one camera underneath for each player. The cards are placed on the glass so the viewer can sneak a peak at them, and you are also looking up at the players."

Each can bring a maximum of pounds 1,500 of their own money to the table, and play for a prize pot of pounds 100,000, which is divided among all the finalists.

The show also has two dealers and a referee from Vienna, and commentators Lucy Rokach and "the voice of poker" Jesse May.

Sian added: "The beauty of Late Night Poker is you don't have to know much about poker to enjoy it. We explain the rules at the start of each programme, and translate the lingo throughout."

As producer Sue Doody says though, while poker is a sport, it is also a state of mind as well.

"There is a real psychology to poker, " she said. "It's all about bluffing and intimidation. If you can make the other players believe you have the better hand then you can win the money, even if you have awful cards.

"Poker is just as much of an experience as it is a game. When the cards start going against a player, which is called 'on the tilt', you sometimes see them start acting completely irrationally through nervousness.

"You have the bully at the table, the talker, the quiet one - when playing, people assume their poker personalities."

'Flops, pockets, holes and burns - but nobody said poker was easy!'

THE form of poker used in the series is one of the oldest around, Texas Hold'em.

But as Sian says, players invent new forms of the game all the time.

The object is to get the best possible hand with five cards, and to start with, two "pocket" or "hole" cards are dealt face down to each player.

Initial bets are made on the basis of the strength of these cards. At this stage the best cards to have are two aces, but any pairs and high cards are good.

After the betting, all the money goes into "the pot, " followed by the dealing of three "flop" or community cards face up in the middle of the table.

This round is called "the flop" and before dealing the dealer "burns" or discards the top card in case any player has seen it.

Players place bets again based on the strength of their hand. A final round is then played as the "turn card" or "river card" is dealt face up on the table. A final round of betting takes place based on players making the best possible five-card hand they can using their hole cards and three of the community cards.

All bets made, the players reveal their hole cards, and the winner is established and "takes all." The "absolute nuts" refers to the best possible hand, which is a royal flush - five cards of the same suit running up to the ace. The "nuts" is the best hand you can make based on the cards you hold, when you can't make a royal flush.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2001 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Oct 20, 2001
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