MansionCasino, creator of Mansion Poker Dome Challenge, announces closure

Haley Hintze Author Photo
Haley Hintze
Posted on: October 24, 2023 17:05 PDT

MansionCasino, the creator of the short-lived Poker Dome Challenge, has announced that it will shutter its online doors on Thursday, October 26, 2023. The pending closure will end Mansion's 17-year run and mark a final coda to one of the greatest "what might have been" stories in online-poker history.

In an email to its current and former customers, MansionCasino advises that:

  • You will no longer be able to deposit and play as of 07:00 GMT on Thursday 26th October 2023.
  • Our chat & phone support will become unavailable as of 07:00 GMT on Thursday 26th October 2023.
  • You’ll be able to  login and withdraw any remaining funds up until 23:59 GMT on Sunday 31st December 2023.

Source: MansionCasino

Mansion Poker Dome Challenge doomed by UIGEA's 2006 passage

MansionCasino and MansionPoker, under which the taped-for-broadcast "Poker Dome Challenge" was created, ended up being one of the worst-timed poker site launches in history. With significant Asian financing, MansionPoker planned the "Poker Dome Challenge" as a rival site-sponsored poker offering to compete with shows being offered by prominent US-facing sites at the time, including PokerStars, Full Tilt, UltimateBet, and Bodog.

However, the series was dealt a death blow part way into what would be its first and only televised season, which was aired in a pay-for-play deal on FOXSports. In the fall of 2006, the US Congess passed and then-president George W. Bush signed the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA), which had been tacked onto the must-pass Safe Port Act by online-gambling foes, and which caused most overseas online-poker sites to abandon the US market, five years befor 2011's "Black Friday" DOJ crackdown eliminated most of the rest.

Though the single year of the series ran on FOXSports through March of 2007, its demise had been assured months earlier, with the UIGEA's passage.. The measure also doomed Mansion's plans to capture a significant US market share, since it had been launched as a quasi-independent room on the iPoker network, which pulled out of the US entirely once the UIGEA went into effect.

'Poker Dome' built in downtown-Vegas Neonopolis mall

Prior to the UIGEA calamity, MansionPoker's owners leased and renovated a movie theatre on the top floor of the Neonopolis indoor/outdoor shopping center in downtown Las Vegas, converting it into the Poker Dome Challenge set. The last 35 of the single season's 43 one-hour episodes were filmed on the enclosed set, after the initial eight episodes were filmed at a separate casino location.

The show's tournament director was famed TD Matt Savage, and the show employed several commentators during its brief run, including bust-out interviewer Leeann Tweeden, who later endured a brush with infamy for being the topic of a suggest photograph taken by US Senator Al Franken that led to Franken's resignation from Congress.

216 different players competed on the show in what was a tricked-out, three-tiered tournament featuring three playoff tiers of winner-take-all, six-handed poker. Rather than use hole-card cams, the show employed an early version of RFID-embedded playing cards, which were so thick that a full 52-card deck was perhaos three inches thick and required the dealers to practice shuffling the cards. The game format saw each player receive just 50 chips to start, with blinds beginning at 1/2, and each hand was pot-limit before the flop, then no-limit post-flop, with the blinds also increasing in a hyper-speed manner.

Each show's players also wore heart-rate monitors under their clothes, a tech gimmick designed to communicate to the studio and TV audiences how much stress the players were under while trying to make decisions within each hand's 15-second shot clock. The real stress when the Neonopolis set first opened was that the air conditioning wasn't functioning, and temperatures on-set during filming, in the heat of the Vegas summer, topped 130 degrees Fahrenheit.

The first Neonopolis episode, the ninth of the show's run, also featured a kickoff party featuring the then-mayor of Las Vegas, Oscar Goodman. The episode was won by West Des Moines, Iowa's Rodel Tuazon, who coincidentally went on to collect the season's $1 million grand prize for winning three straight six-player tournaments. Among Tuazon's foes in that set-launching episode were famed pro Tony G and, also coincidentally, this writer, who, like most of the show's contestants, won her seat for a penny in an online qualifier on the site.