Hank Azaria’s new poker show is a joy to watch

Jon Pill
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Posted on 02/13/2021

If the machine-like precision of Doug Polk’s heads up play was a bit of a turn off for you. Or if you miss the collegiate atmosphere of those now ancient celebrity episodes of Late Night Poker, then Hank’s Home Game might be just the thing.

The table has been stacked with players chosen not for their card sense, but their ability to entertain. No one is debating exploits versus game theory optimal. And everyone is mouthing off as if they’ve never heard Joe Navarro talk about “leakage.” Which they probably haven’t.

It’s pure, light-hearted entertainment poker.

Hank’s Home Game is played online with a visual format borrowed from the Virtual Poker League.

Each player has a webcam trained on their face (or a cardboard cutout of their face in the case of Jon Hamm) while they play. Those are arranged around the table layout on which the viewer can see all the players’ hands. The result is something with some of the social feel of a live game.

The game itself was a 100 big blind deep cash game. Players could rebuy as many times as they bust. Rankings were decided in the end by how much players won or lost. The best performances won the best cash prizes for their chosen charities.

The result of this format is that towards the end things start to get a bit loosey-goosey as the players who were behind tried to pry a victory from the sharp-toothed snout of defeat.

Stars and their lies

The first episode sported a star-studded line up of Hank Azaria as host with guests: Don “The DonDaDaDA” Cheadle, Michael “IamMichaelCera” Cera, Michael Ian “MichaelIanBlack” Black, Josh “IamJoshCharles” Charles, and Jon “MediumJon” Hamm.

Michael Ian Black and Josh Charles are lesser-known quantities at the poker table, but Don Cheadle has plenty of experience running charity poker events of his own. And anyone who has watched his performance in Mad Men knows how solid Hamm’s poker face is.

Michael Cera is perhaps the most surprising success here. After starring as “Player X” — the definitely-not-based-on-Toby-Maguire character in Molly’s Game — he seems to have taken to poker in a sharkish manner that is very similar to that on screen roll. Better Player X than George Michael Bluth or Scott Pilgrim.

The table talk ended up being charming and low-stakes, maintaining the air of fun. The players talk shop, reviewing movies (not all of which exist like the Stallone and Kurt Russell blockbuster Patience and Tenacity) and their own early careers. At one point Jon Hamm ducks off camera leaving a cardboard cut out of his own face in his chair to play for him. The players even discuss Ian Michael Black’s (un-)likelihood of success as a coach for the New York Jets.

You can watch the full first episode of Hank’s Home Game here.

Image source: Twitter