NBC faces reality of poker

Network gambles on 'Face the Ace' series

More poker coverage is in the cards at NBC, which has just dealt an order to the series “Face the Ace.”

“Ace,” hosted by Steve Schirripa (“The Sopranos”), will bow Aug. 1 at 9 p.m. on the Peacock. Show will also air the following Saturday in the same slot. After that, it’s scheduled to run Saturday afternoons beginning in September.

Show comes from Poker Prods., which also produces the latenight “Poker After Dark” franchise for NBC.

“Face the Ace” will revolve around contestants — found via an online search — who are pitted in a showdown against pro poker players in Las Vegas.

“Ace” opens with four pro poker players hidden behind smoked-glass doors. A contestant will choose one of those doors — and wind up playing heads-up no-limit Hold ‘Em against a pro opponent.

If the contestant wins his first match, he can opt to take the winnings and go home — or risk those winnings and play against another pro for a bigger pot. If he wins again, he can go home — or play against a third pro for a chance at $1 million.

But if they lose, the contestant walks away with nothing.

Peacock has picked up seven episodes so far of “Ace,” although that number can easily be expanded, said NBC Universal TV exec VP Jerry Petry. If successful, the show could potentially continue on Saturdays in primetime, where nets continue to struggle to find low-cost original fare.

“There’s nothing like it on the air right now,” Petry said. “This will attract the core poker fans who watch it on our network but will also open it up to a new audience of people who like gameshows and aren’t necessarily poker fans going in.”

Show is being produced with the help of Fulltiltpoker.net, which will host qualifying tournaments. Top winners head to Vegas for a chance at appearing on the show.

“Poker After Dark” continues to perform well for NBC, especially given its timeslot: 2:05 a.m. on weeknights and 1 a.m. on Saturdays. Show is averaging a 0.3 rating with adults 18-49 and is up 4% with viewers this season, averaging an audience of 881,000.

Peacock’s poker addiction also extends to another franchise, “The National Heads-Up Poker Championship.”

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