Under the auspices of poker entertainment company Federated Sports + Gaming, the Epic Poker League‘s Inaugural Season includes four rake-free $20,000 Main Events, each with $400,000 in added money, and a $1,000,000 free-roll Championship Event for the top 27 players in the League.
“We are looking to build a brand that will have some heavy staying power,” said Jeffrey Pollack, who co-founded FS+G with Annie Duke, one of the top pro poker players in the world and now EPL Commissioner. “It’s a very heavy lift and will take time. But we have the right team for that lift.”
EPL’s initial telecast schedule will feature 20 hours of original TV programming, seven on CBS and 13 on Discovery Communications’ recently rebranded Velocity network. Following a sneak preview on Sept. 30, EPL officially debuts tonight on Velocity (10 PM ET) and on CBS on Oct. 8 (1 PM ET). Telecasts run through May 6 on Velocity and May 11 on CBS. (Full schedule below.)
To be eligible to compete, main event players must earn membership determined by a rigorous set of objective criteria.
Top players include Jason Mercier, Erik Seidel, Eugene Katchalov, Thomas Marchese, Phil Hellmuth, Ben Lamb, Scott Seiver, David Peters and Bertrand Grospellier.
Each episode of Epic Poker League will be hosted by award-winning sports anchor and reporter Pat O’Brien. David Neal, who has won 34 Emmy Awards, a Peabody Award and is one of the leading producers and executives in sports TV, will produce Epic Poker League on CBS and Velocity. Working with Neal will be 441 Productions, who are collective winners of 23 Emmy Awards and one of TV’s leading producers of non-fiction programming.
EPL entry was open to 252 season-one qualifiers, plus nine finalists each from Epic’s Pro/Am events, in which amateurs can participate. Tournaments are held at the Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas.
“We recognize our place on the poker industry landscape,” said Pollack, whose extensive resume includes Commissioner of the World Series of Poker, Executive Chairman of Professional Bull Riders, and an executive with both Nascar and the NBA .”The World Series of Poker has been around for more than 40 years and is the bellwether for the poker industry. The World Poker Tour has been a terrific force for innovation, especially on the television side.
“I have enormous respect for what they do,” Pollack continued. “Our twist is a little different. We are coming at this from a different point of departure. With a little more focus on the pros, with a different flair on television. But we think there is room for us all. We don’t see ourselves as a competitor with them. We see ourselves as attempting to give more people around the world one more reason to pay attention to poker.”
The four professional league Main Events will feature different formats of No-Limit Texas Hold’em, including six-handed play and a special multi-format tournament. Each event week will include a Pro/Am Event, a Charity Event, and a $20,000 buy-in rake-free Main Event.
CBS BROADCAST SCHEDULE
• Sat., Oct. 8, 2011 (1-2 p.m. ET)
• Sat., Nov. 19, 2011 (1-2 p.m. ET)
• Sat., Jan. 14, 2012 (Time TBD)
• Sun., Feb. 26, 2012 (1-2 p.m. ET)
• Sun., April 29, 2012 (1-2 p.m. ET)
• Sun., May 6, 2012 ( 1-2 p.m. ET)
• Sun., May 6, 2012 ( 2-3 p.m. ET)
VELOCITY BROADCAST SCHEDULE
• Fri., Oct. 7, 2011 (10-11 p.m. ET)
• Fri., Oct. 14, 2011 (10-11 p.m. ET) (CBS re-air)
• Fri., Nov. 4, 2011 (10-11 p.m. ET)
• Fri., Nov. 11, 2011 (10-11 p.m. ET)
• Fri., Nov. 18, 2011 (10-11 p.m. ET)
• Fri., Nov. 25, 2011 (10-11 p.m. ET) (CBS re-air)
• Fri., Feb. 3, 2012 (10-11 p.m. ET) (CBS re-air)
• Fri. , Feb. 10, 2012 (10-11 p.m. ET)
• Fri., Feb. 17, 2012 (10-11 p.m. ET)
• Fri., Feb. 24, 2012 (10-11 p.m. ET)
• Fri., March 2, 2012 (10-11 p.m. ET) (CBS re-air)
• Fri., April 13, 2012 (10-11 p.m. ET)
• Fri., April 20, 2012 (10-11 p.m. ET)
• Fri., April 27, 2012 (10-11 p.m. ET)
• Fri., May 4, 2012 (8-9 p.m. ET) (CBS re-air)
• Fri., May 4, 2012 (9-10 p.m. ET)
• Fri., May 4, 2012 (10-11 p.m. ET)
• Fri., May 11, 2012 (9-10 p.m. ET) (CBS re-air)
• Fri., May 11, 2012 (10-11 p.m. ET) (CBS re-air)
PHOTOS: Epic Poker League