Season 1 of Poker After Dark in 2007 changed how poker was presented on TV under the eye of Mori Eskandani and his Poker PROductions company. It was the height of the poker boom and NBC aired the intimate show weeknights at 2 am. The most popular players at the time came together to play $120,000 winner-take-all freezeouts and only PokerGO has every single episode archived on demand.
The short-on-commentary, long-on-table talk format opened up the game and turned poker enthusiasts to become repeat viewers. Hands themselves were analyzed by pros and fans alike long after the show went off-air.
Season 1 hosted ten, six-handed matches from a pool of 36 unique players and each match played out over the five weeknights. The real magic of PAD came with table lineups – very rarely would two silent players be playing at the same time. Admittedly, most of the player pool came from online poker sponsorship.
The players played a real-money stack of $20,000, with the added flair of $5,000 bricks, rather than tournament chips. A total of ten champions were crowned:
Match 1: “Poker Brat Attack” – Gus Hansen
Match 2: “Play Anything” – Daniel Negreanu
Match 3: “World Champions” – Johnny Chan
Match 4: “Earphones Please” – Phil Ivey
Match 5: “Phil Phil” – Phil Laak
Match 6: “Commentators I” – Howard Lederer
Match 7: “Against All Odds” – Chris Ferguson
Match 8: “Killer Table” – Jennifer Harman
Match 9: “Loose Lips” – John Juanda
Match 10: “Ladies” – Clonie Gowen
Considering it was a winner-take-all format, in reality, there were only ten winners, but many players played multiple times and had better finishing positions that could subjectively be graded.
Negreanu, Chan, Laak and Juanda each played a single match and walked away winners and bragging rights that bled in Season 2. Laak had arguably the tougher starting table, but Chan and Juanda could claim most volatile and Negreanu just expects to win one out of five games he plays.
John Juanda played a single flight and won in Season 1. (Photo: PokerPhotoArchive.com)
Phil Hellmuth and Doyle Brunson played the most with three appearances each. They both did the worst of the group and placed fourth, fifth and sixth in their matches – dusting off the most buy-ins.
Match champions Hansen, Ivey, Ferguson, and Harman each turned in a third place finish in their second matches. Gowen won a flight and finished fourth in another, Tony G. played twice with a third and runner-up finish to show for it.
Sammy Farha played twice and busted first twice for the ugliest stat line, Mike Matusow finished third and fifth on two bullets and Gabe Kaplan finished fourth and third in his matches.
Patrik Antonius, Antonio Esfandiari and Chris Moneymaker each played a single flight and finished runner-up. Other interesting players from broadcasts include Evelyn Ng, Shawn Sheikhan, Phil Gordon and the late Jerry Buss and Chad Brown.
Each Season 1 matchup is available on demand exclusively on PokerGO. Season 2 and most of Season 3 are currently available as new blocks of episodes continue to be released.