Behind every great poker production is a vision of what that production would be. What if a poker production was replaced by a resident studio, a studio dedicated to poker, not one simply built up and taken down every time a poker show needed recording?
Enter Mori Eskandani, the man behind Poker PROductions and a member of the Poker Hall of Fame since 2018. While some may have seen it as an impossible task, Eskandani saw a future of poker on television that would include Poker After Dark and High Stakes Poker, as well as stars of the game such as Phil Hellmuth and other stellar names from the very top of the poker tree, appearing on a regular basis, in exactly the same place.
THE VISION BEHIND THE DREAM
Eskandani had a vision of what he wanted players to feel when they stepped inside the studio.
“‘One day I’m going to be in there playing.'” says Eskandani with his trademark passion in this archive interview from 2017. “It’s going to be on most players bucket lists. All the great games that are going to happen there, so you’ll want to be a part of it. Every poker player’s wish is going to be that they’ll play at the PokerGO studio, whether it’s on Poker After Dark or the Super High Roller Bowl Championship or any other of these big events happening under one roof.”
POKER AFTER DARK SEES BRIGHT LIGHTS SHINE
The idea of a single-studio building where poker would be brought to life in stunning form, ready-made for TV, was lip-smacking as well as it was daunting. Poker After Dark kicked off in devastating fashion back in 2007, as Phil Hellmuth boiled over in one of his infamous outbursts that dominate the small screen.
“Get Mori in here!” is the first thing Hellmuth says.
You can watch the full first episode of that epic series right here.
HIGH STAKES POKER AT ITS BEST
Poker After Dark wasn’t the only series that courted some controversy and mixed it with high stakes. The aptly-named High Stakes Poker featured some of the biggest names in poker, but that wasn’t all that made it so appealing.
“It had all the elements of fun rather than just poker,” says Eskandani, looking back at another of his major achievements.
“I knew immediately that the only way it would work was if players would run the game. I went to the players that knew one another. You can’t have a game that’s half-assed. You have to have games that are serious. For me it was the idea of those two elements; they had to be really good players, so people would say ‘Look how he played that!’ and the conversation could never stop.”
THE HALL OF FAME BECKONS
In 2018, Eskandani was inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame alongside John Hennigan, the two men becoming the 55th and 56th individuals to be honored by their peers, voted into the exclusive poker club by the 28 PHOF members and an 18-person ‘Blue Ribbon’ Media Panel at the time.
Eskandani was officially welcomed into the PHOF on Thursday, July 12th, 2018. as part of the live World Series of Poker Main Event final table coverage on ESPN, earning recognition for his part in shows such as the World Series of Poker on ESPN to the NBC Heads Up Championship, as well as Poker After Dark and High Stakes Poker.
You can listen to the whole of Remko Rinkema’s interview with Mori Eskandani, including how Johnny Chan once lost a $700,000 pot and how the first-ever poker table including hole-card cameras was created right here.
You can go back in time and find out the history of poker in even more detail with our new series, Legends of the Game, featuring original documentary footage of players such as Stu Ungar and Chip Reese, legends such as Benny Binion and how ‘Mob Money’ transformed Las Vegas. Subscribe today.