CBS, Discovery set for poker action

Nets will air new league starting in fall

Exclusive: CBS is betting on poker as a weekend programming staple starting in the fall.

The Eye, in addition to the new Discovery cable net Velocity, will telecast the newly formed Epic Poker League (Variety, Feb. 22). All together, there will be 20 original hours of card playing spread over the two nets, as well as repeat telecasts on Velocity.

Telecast dates for both nets will be released in the fall.

The new league will feature the top 200 players in the world, with poker pro Annie Duke set as commissioner. Players will be eligible based on meeting a statistical criteria.

Longtime NBC sports exec David Neal will produce with 441 Prods., the shingle behind the 2003-2010 ESPN World Series of Poker telecasts.

“Our focus is celebrating the best live tournament players in the world with a sense of purpose and dedication,” Jeffrey Pollack, exec chairman of the Epic Poker League, told Variety.

Pollack also noted that the poker telecasts will delve heavily into players’ personalities and background, rather than sticking strictly with action at the tables. Neal, along with Dick Ebersol, helped shape that type of Olympics coverage during their decades together at the Peacock.

Discovery is set to launch Velocity on Oct. 4. New net replaces HD Theater and will be geared toward an affluent male demo.

Pat O’Brien will host the telecasts, with poker vet Ali Nejad on board as an analyst.

The first of four events will take place Aug. 9-12. The championship round is set for Feb. 13-14. All play takes place at the Palms Hotel in Las Vegas.