A new poker league hoping to become card sharks' equivalent of professional tennis or golf has a television deal with CBS, with seven hours of network programming planned for the league's inaugural year.
Epic Poker League officials told The Associated Press that the deal will include 20 hours of programming from five poker tournaments, including a $1 million free-roll no-limit Texas Hold 'em championship planned in February in Las Vegas.
The league — led by well-known poker professional Annie Duke and Jeffrey Pollack, a former World Series of Poker commissioner — requires players to qualify for tournaments through past results and recent wins in major live tournaments, in hopes of generating fields of only the toughest poker players. Most major poker tournaments are open events, with players needing only to put up a buy-in to compete.
Pollack, the league's executive chairman, said he is proud of the CBS deal.
"Both companies share our commitment to providing a world-class stage and significant new exposure for poker's most talented live tournament players," Pollack said in a statement released Wednesday.
The television coverage will be hosted by sports announcer Pat O'Brien, a current Fox Sports Radio host and Emmy-winning former TV sports announcer who covered Olympics, Super Bowls and other sports and entertainment.
His co-host will be Ali Nejad, a commentator for previous poker television coverage including the National Heads-Up Poker Championship and "Poker After Dark." Nejad also is a poker player who cashed at a smaller World Series of Poker tournament in 2005.
Most of the Epic tournaments will air on Velocity, a Discovery Communications network launching in October. Officials said the televised episodes will be produced by the same company that produced the World Series of Poker from 2003 to 2010.
Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Oskar Garcia can be reached at http://twitter.com/oskargarcia