FSN Ups Ante With $60M 'Speed’ Poker

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Fox Sports Net is raising its bet on the TV poker genre.

In an unprecedented arrangement between a network and a poker Web site, FSN and Mansionpoker.net will deal out a new, made-for-television $60 million winner-take-all tournament next July.

The tourney is part of a three-year deal that beginning in May will also yield a weekly, fast-paced poker series, set inside an FSN-constructed “pokerdome,” according to George Greenberg, executive vice president of programming and production.

FSN is rolling the dice in hopes that its new poker shows will help it stand out from other network players at an increasingly crowded gaming table.

“From a network perspective, this will be the largest poker deal ever brokered in television history,” Greenberg said, although he would not reveal specific financial figures. “This will feel every bit as big as our Fox NFL telecasts.”

Speaking of the broadcaster, the mega-event, which will take place July 12 — the day after Major League Baseball’s All-Star game — could wind up on Fox. Greenberg said FSN is talking to its broadcast brother about televising the event, offering a pot that could grow to $100 million by 2008.

Participants in the upcoming six-player event, slated for Australia, will have to lay out $10 million to “buy in” to the tournament.

As for The Mansionpoker.net Pokerdome Series, the two-hour show will air Sundays at 11 p.m. on FSN owned-and-affiliated regional sports networks for 43 consecutive weeks starting May 15, said Greenberg. The series will originate within a high-tech arena dubbed “pokerdome,” featuring a one-way mirror and microphones that allow fans to see and hear the action while keeping the players oblivious to their surroundings.

FSN won’t leave much to the viewer’s imagination, placing sensors in each of the cards to alert viewers as to what’s in each players hand and which cards are left in the deck. Through robotic cameras, fans will also be able to focus on each player’s face and the odds of winning each hand.

“We know what cards each player has, so we can now tell the viewing public exactly what cards are needed to make a hand good, which has never been done before,” Greenberg said. “There are so many things we can do to enhance the viewing experience.”

To appeal to younger viewers, Greenberg said players on will engage in a form of speed poker, in which each move will have to be made within 15 seconds. Overall, viewers will be able to see as many as 45 hands dealt during each two-hour show.

“It’s poker on steroids,” Greenberg added. “Speed poker will become, for the younger generation, the next extension of poker.”

Consumers can qualify for the series by playing poker online for free at www.mansionpoker.net, with the online winners appearing on the show. The weekly elimination series will eventually crown one champion that will take home $1 million during the series finale.

“We hope to get more of the everyman type that plays poker involved visually and broaden the sport,” he said.