PokerDome Coming to Downtown Las Vegas

Binions has aways been about neon. and FOX Sports have partnered to bring to television the most ambitious poker project to date. PokerDome Series has finally found a home in downtown Las Vegas at the Neonopolis mall located a block south of the end of the light canopy over Fremont Street. Three of the theatres at Neonopolis are being transformed into the PokerDome. The PokerDome is the world’s first custom designed poker arena that will accommodate an audience of 200 around a final poker table enclosed in a glass dome of silence, ala the old TV series, Get Smart. Fans sitting in stadium style seating around the ultra-tech poker table will have considerable inside information displayed real time on plasma monitors. FOX says this new venue promises to be “NASCAR for Poker.”

Neonopolis in downtown Las Vegas

Players will be enclosed in close, full view from a sound proofed one way glass dome that prevents them from seeing or hearing anything from the audience. The latest in high tech poker tables will have the usual hole card cameras and rabbit hunting cameras plus close-ups of all the action on the felt, discarded cards, even burn cards will all be fed to the plasma displays for the audience. Table size close-ups of the players allows for scrutiny that’s better than real. All of the players will be miked-up so the audience can hear all of the table talk. Another novel addition is the player’s heart rates are displayed real time from a telemetry link to vital sign monitors wired to each player. What’s the probability of getting your poker opponents to wear one of these devices? Will this be another television first when we get to see and hear a player having a heart attack?

More neon inside.

The PokerDome is being built in the space currently occupied by three of the movie theaters. Hopefully, live tournament poker will prove to be a better drawing card than Mary Poppins was for Neonopolis, downtown’s biggest public funded white elephant. Apparently, not as many people as originally estimated wanted to bring the kids to seedy downtown to see a movie. Maybe poker will be the attraction that does the trick for the neon loser. Neonopolis has had a difficult time attracting and holding onto tenants for the city financed mall boondoggle. I was there when it opened with much fanfare and posturing by local politicians busy patting themselves on the back for having wisely spent millions of taxpayer’s dollars on this miraculous ‘genesis’ machine for downtrodden downtown Las Vegas.

The Hennessey Tavern opened this week just across fremont Street.

The country’s happiest mayor, Oscar Goodman, said this is another step towards making the neon project a success along with today’s opening today of two new restaurants, Hennessey’s Irish Pub and Mickey Finnz Fish House & Bar just across Fremont Neonopolis. FOX Sports executive vice president of programming and production, George Greenberg, said the PokerDome will offer free admission and no alcohol (guess we won’t be seeing much of Hiszonner Oscar Goodman). Another innovation is something that has added called “Speed Poker.” Instead of playing 15-20 hands per hour speed poker kicks it up to 80-100 hands per hour by setting a fifteen second time limit on each player. This might prove to be a detriment to the fickle public’s acceptance of this new brand of poker show. On the other hand, it may be a stroke of genius with the TV viewers, most of whom have very little actual tournament poker experience, but are TV viewing experts. They get to see many more hands and playing situations and this could prove to be a big plus in the market that counts, the big dollar TV market.

Mickie Finnz Fish House & Bar is another new downtown addition

This venue certainly has a shot at being a success. I didn’t care for the time clock on a previous TV poker show experiment and will approach this one with the open mind of a TV viewer instead of a poker purist. The FOX people have sprung for a three year lease so they have confidence in the PokerDome concept and production project. They certainly have pockets deep enough for the project, plenty of big-time sports broadcast experience and don’t forget about that built-in backbone-size bandwidth to the general viewing public. Partnered with their online qualifying poker room, they should have no trouble producing nine players each week for the inaugural season. I expect they will salt the table with various qualified well known professional poker players, at least I hope so. Convincing the public to tune in for another poker show regardless of the bells and whistles will be a hard sell without some of the stars of the sport at each week’s game. The FOX Sports people are smart as a fox and just as quick so they will alter the production as required for success.

Another view of Neonopolis.

The first of the weekly tournaments is scheduled for May 20 with players qualifying for the final table at The tournaments will continue for 43 weeks through the $1 million season finale. On a related note a Mega Event is scheduled for six players that plunk down $10 million each in a winner take the whole $60 million, to be held at the Crown Casino in Melbourne, Australia in July, 2006. They already have one sign-up, Phil Ivey. Mr. Poker himself has plunked down his 10 mil and waits for the other five players. I’ve decided to make Phil the favorite to win this one without even knowing the other five. Surely, one of the will be heads-up ace, all American billionaire and hailing from Texas, Andy Beal. If you can’t make this one there will be another next year with the take-all purse climbing to $75 million, then in 2008 it moves up to $100 million. Don’t them downunders have any respect for money? Just how bold or utterly stupid do you have to be to risk $100 million on the turn of a card?

The atrium is filled with neon art of old.

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