Venetian trying hand at poker show

People watch poker on TV, but will they pay to watch it live? What if they have a chance to sit at the table with big-name pros? Does that sweeten the pot?

All bets will be called in October, when producer Merv Adelson (no relation to Venetian head Sheldon) goes all in with “The Real Deal,” an interactive show in The Venetian’s cozy theater that hosts Wayne Brady at night.

Previews begin Oct. 1, with the formal debut set for Oct. 14. The plan calls for eight shows per week; 4 p.m. most afternoons, plus two evening shows on nights Brady doesn’t perform.

The hybrid concept doesn’t have any direct comparisons on the Strip, but sounds closer to “The Price is Right — Live” at Bally’s than anything else.

Six audience members somehow will be chosen to sit at the table with two pros, who will rotate from a pool of these announced names: Doyle Brunson, Daniel Negreanu, Phil Hellmuth Jr., Antonio Esfandiari, Gavin Smith, Eli Elezra, Jennifer Harman, Phil Laak, Scotty Nguyen and Todd Brunson.

The entire audience participates in the final round through touch-screen technology. But everyone plays for prizes, not cash. “The poker players are loving (the concept) because it’s not so heavy and they can show their light side,” says publicist Terry Willis.

A comedian/host will banter with the crowd during the slower moments of the game, and technology will allow the audience to see everyone’s hand.

Poker is a phenomenon that crossed into all reaches of society, but you still have to wonder what the producers of the bygone “Hats!” musical (for and about the Red Hat Society) would tell Adelson about so narrowly defining an audience. At least it sounds more viable than the recently showcased poker-themed musical, “All In.” …

Fans who put off seeing Roseanne Barr at the Sahara should get over there by Wednesday. At one point the comedian was going to take August off, but now has decided not to return at all. The comedian says the final decision was based on her youngest son attending school in California and not wanting to be separated from him in September.

It’s also easy to read between the lines and figure the decision would have been tougher if Barr was doing capacity business. Sahara executives also might have felt more inclined to throw extra support behind her rent-the-room deal (through producer Bill Caron) if they didn’t have a new show coming to the casino’s other theater. A multimedia dance revue called “Raw Talent Live” is on track to open next month.

Caron has no immediate plans to replace Barr with another late show, but says hotel management might cut its own deal with another producer. Caron also is negotiating to extend his oldies package of groups performing hits by the Platters, Coasters and Marvelettes; the current contract expires at the end of August. …

No surprise, but “Wizard: The Musical Journey of Oz Composer Harold Arlen” packed it in early at the Greek Isles. It closed July 13 after two weeks, short of even its modest goal of a limited-run showcase. Though worthy in the right context, the revue was more suited for off-Strip locals than for the tourist zone in a tough summer.

Producer Dick Feeney was subleasing his Greek Isles showroom to the “Wizard” folks. His own show at the Plaza, the venerable afternoon revue “Viva Las Vegas,” is taking the rest of the summer off and returns Sept. 15. Feeney says Fremont Street is too quiet on hot summer afternoons, though it rallies in the evenings for his Plaza show “The Rat Pack is Back.”

For another three days at least, there is a new afternoon option. Fans of comedy-magician Nick Lewin, who lives here but works mostly on cruise ships these days, can see him at Harrah’s Las Vegas today through Saturday, filling in for Mac King. Lewin’s show at the old Maxim paved the way for many of today’s afternoon revues. …

Not all show news is downbeat this summer. Chip Lightman, producer for the Donny and Marie Osmond show coming to the Flamingo Las Vegas on Sept. 9, says the duo already have sold about $850,000 in pre-sales, or about 8,500 seats at an average ticket price of $100. That sort of flies in the face of the Sin City, adult-Disneyland thing, doesn’t it? …

Finally, an example of Vegas without borders. Chris Ritter, the New York-based producer who recently organized a comedians’ tribute to George Carlin, reports seeing a bus in Times Square draped with an ad for George Wallace’s show at the Flamingo.

Wallace is a former ad man and transplanted New Yorker himself, and must know the territory enough to figure it’s worth the investment. But you don’t see ads here for shows that are (only) in New York.

Contact reporter Mike Weatherford at mweatherford@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0288.

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