by Ron Fortune
Much of the groundwork for the popularity of poker today was laid by legends such as Benny Binion, who created the World Series of Poker, and Lyle Berman, who inaugurated the World Poker Tour.
But those fellows have nothing on Florence Pugliese.
At age 90, Florence Pugliese is not your average poker player. Pugliese is the CEO of Passport International Productions Inc., and the driving force to produce her son’s idea of a poker show that everyone could enjoy.
The result is the "Ultimate Poker Challenge," the first syndicated poker program that reaches more U.S. households than any other poker show. The Challenge debuted last October at the Plaza in Las Vegas and can currently be seen on KFBT TV-33 on Sunday evenings.
Interested viewers — poker players and wanna be players — are tuning in to watch their favorite players compete for cash and prizes on "Ultimate Poker Challenge," thanks to Pugliese.
"The show brings the thrill of Las Vegas right into your living room," Pugliese said.
"Ultimate Poker Challenge" brings together male and female; amateurs and pros alike to compete for a chance to play in the semi-finals and a shot at the championship title, cash and prizes.
Nick "The Kid" Bouyea of New York proved, anyone can win. Just 22, Bouyea advanced to the semi-finals in the opening tournament.
But this isn’t just a man’s game. Kathy Liebert beat out six male players during the sixth week of play.
"Ultimate Poker Challenge" is the only tournament offering an unprecedented seven seats per table, 26 final tables and 182 chances to participate in televised tournament action.
"It’s the ultimate odds for anyone wanting to get in on the action," said Dan Pugliese, Florence’s son and executive producer.
Each week, field correspondent Brandi Williams, named one of the 50 sexiest women of 2004, entertains viewers with her compelling commentary and Las Vegas charm.
Brandi will be joined by world-renowned poker player Daniel Negreneau during the semi- finals on February 12 and 19, and the legendary Doyle "Texas Dolly" Brunson, along with his son Todd, during the championship tournament on February 26.
"Ultimate Poker Challenge" will be re-aired in its entirety beginning in March. Passport Entertainment will be in Las Vegas, January 25 - 27, to introduce a new season of "Ultimate Poker Challenge" at the National Association of Television Program Executives convention, which will convene at Mandalay Bay.