You never know just what might happen off the felt during the summer at the World Series of Poker. Fourth of July parties, prop bets, scavenger hunts; half the fun is outside of the poker rooms.
One thing happened just last week that was a first for me. I was invited to a private screening of a new television show just down the hallway from the WSOP Main Event. That seemed random at first, but the timing couldn’t have been better.
The collection of people was eclectic in the miniature theater. Poker industry titans, media people, actors, writers, and four-time WSOP bracelet winner Tom McEvoy were all in the same room. They offered us delicious food and drinks prior to entering the theater. A great start.
So, why were we watching a television show during the World Series of Poker?
UN$UITED is a poker show and much more
UN$UITED (executive producer and co-creator Kent Radford) is centered around a poker player and his big dreams. That said, co-writer, producer, and director of the first two episodes Tom Baldinger tells us it’s so much more.
“I don’t think any other TV show has ever done this,” said Baldinger. “You think of the movie Rounders, for example, it brought together poker people with a general audience. You ask any general audience if they’ve seen Rounders and they say, ‘Yeah, I love that movie,’ even if they don’t know much about poker. No TV show has done that.”
After seeing the first two episodes at the private screening, I agree with that sentiment. There is definitely plenty to be excited about as a poker player and poker fan, but it’s not lost on a general audience.
The show centers around Greg Mucha, played by Michael Satow, a wannabe poker professional who gives up his inheritance to pursue his dream. Unfortunately for him, he’s bad at poker. He’s very bad at poker.
“He’s the worst player to ever play the game,” laughed Baldinger. “But, he has no idea. He comes out to Vegas and it’s a culture shock. But, he’s so persistent and he’s such a good guy, you want to root for him.”
There are plenty of scenes set in poker rooms and Las Vegas in general, but that’s not the entirety of the show.
Greg has friends and family back in New Jersey that worry about him and his new life, and that cast of characters back home adds so much to the show. Baldinger elaborates, “It’s about some of the decisions that he’s made that he doesn’t realize how they affect him and they will affect his friends and family back in New Jersey as well.”
Greg’s friends and family
Ronnie Marmo passionately plays Greg’s best friend, Kevin. As such, he desperately tries to convince Greg not to pursue his poker dream right now, knowing the Vegas sharks will eat him alive. Once he realizes his efforts are in vain, he stands loyally by Greg’s side from the opposite coast.
Greg’s sister Jenny is played by the talented Janelle Gaeta. She, too, worries about Greg’s pursuits, though she wouldn’t mind taking over Greg’s inheritance in his absence.
Then, there’s the best player in the friend group, Damian. Damian is played by Carmine Giovinazzo, who convincingly shines as a card shark who sees all the angles. He, too, is coming to Vegas, though his prospects seem much brighter than Greg’s. Damian promises to look out for Greg to an extent, but ultimately will do what’s best for him and his wallet.
There are so many other roles that make this more than just a poker show, and many more story arcs I’d like to see develop. Two episodes were just enough to make me want more.
The role of the WSOP
Early in the shooting, the writers didn’t yet have permission to use the WSOP as a plot point. As such, we heard the characters talk of Greg coming to Vegas to play “the tournament.” That seems to have changed in recent times.
“We came out to Vegas last year when we just had the pilot,” said Baldinger. “We met with Ty Stewart and some others from PokerStars, GG Poker, PokerGO, and more. And yes, the WSOP is definitely behind the show. They’ve told us that for marketing purposes, they would love to help out and strategize with us once the show goes to series.”
Also on the cast and working as a consultant is Tom McEvoy, four-time World Series of Poker bracelet winner.
“Not only does Tom play a cameo, but Tom was one of our consultants on the show when we were writing the script and when we were shooting the pilot,” said Baldinger. “He was on set with us and he was great. He’s been a major, major supporter of it. And he put us in touch with people like yourself and the WSOP, and so that has given us that credibility.”
Current status of the show and how to learn more
“The two episodes of the show is what we have,” said Baldinger. “One purpose of the screening is we’re looking for investors, potentially in the poker community and gaming industry who want to get on board with the project. There are multiple different characters and each character has kind of their own story and there’s kind of different levels going on. You’ve got people back in New Jersey, you’ve got people in Las Vegas, and so as we wrote the pilot, we realized that we have a really long story to tell here. We actually mapped out six seasons.”
Baldinger said he’s happy to answer questions from anyone who’s interested at his personal email at email@example.com or follow them on Facebook and Twitter. Click here to get a peek at the trailer.
Best of luck to you Tom and all of the hardworking staff and talent that has worked on the show thus far.
I hope Greg makes it to the WSOP one day.
Actor photos courtesy of IMDB