Phil Ivey is one of the undeniable top poker players in the world. Touted as such by everyone from Daniel Negreanu to Doyle Brunson. But his profile has been pretty low since Black Friday hit. A stint in Macau, at the Baccarat tables, and, more recently, a crisis of enthusiasm for poker kept him away from the spotlight for a while.
Now, he claims, the fire is back.
Absence makes the heart grow fonder and after he signed a sponsorship deal — along with Tom Dwan — to front for Poker Kings, we’ve been delighted to see more of him. Like Dwan, Ivey has been doing a series of videos for the Poker Kings YouTube channel. This week it culminated in an advert for the WePoker app in which “The Tiger Woods of Poker” took on Allen “The A.I.” Iverson in a series of prop bets.
In the video, Iverson and Ivey dash about the manicured lawns and well-appointed rooms of someone’s mansion. Betting on golf putting, roshambo, jacuzzi hoops (an upset in which Ivey wins), model yacht racing (with leaf blower shenanigans), staircase beer pong, and the gambling staple of tricycle racing. All the while throwing out the catch-phrase “double or nothing.”
The game is given away somewhat by a gag involving card towers. It’s hard to maintain the illusion that this isn’t scripted to some degree after that. Even more so when they switch to poker and the table is prominently branded.
Unfortunately, the short film is just a one off ad marketing material for an app called WePoker. This is more or less Pokerrrr 2 but with short deck, a place to host private games online. And we know Ivey loves short deck. The Macanese private games were the reason we didn’t see much of him after Black Friday.
But the format works.
The five-minute promo spot had a lot of the energy of Antonio Esfandiari and Phil Laak’s prop-bet show I Bet You. Ivey seems to have gained a lot of confidence in front of the camera. Gone is the awkward line delivery from the Full Tilt ads. He and Iverson both seem to be having a genuinely good time.
The producers missed a trick not spinning this out into a full series.
The pair have fantastic on-screen chemistry. And both are eminently watchable. Iverson is retired from the N.B.A. but still curries plenty of favor with the sporting crowd. And there’s not a poker player in the world who wouldn’t pull their eye-teeth to get more Ivey content.
But it does leave one hoping the ad is a kind of proof of concept and we can look forward to Season 1 of Double or Nothing in 2021.
Featured image source: Flickr