Whether you're a serious poker player, a casual player, or simply an interested viewer, there's a lot of fun to be had in watching the best poker players in the world go at it in a high-stakes game at the top level. World Poker Tour: Bad Boys of Poker gives us a ticket to a special event, a hand-picked final table with five of the best poker players on the scene... plus one additional player, a lucky amateur who got his spot through a WPT sweepstakes. The result is a very entertaining tournament in which every participant is interesting to watch, and that features some great hard-hitting play from beginning to end. Fans of poker may be familiar with some or all of the "bad boys" here, but in any case, the program does a nice job of introducing each one before the tournament and also giving us more information about them as the tournament continues. The assembled players here are all leading money-winners or WPT winners: Danish player and multiple WPT event-winner Gus Hansen, "The Magician" Antonio Esfandiari, "The Unabomber" Phil Laak, "Devilfish" David Ulliot, and Paul "The Truth" Darden. And, of course, one nervous bank teller from Illinois, Mark Richards, swimming with the sharks. I'm not going to spoil who wins or who doesn't, since that's a lot of the fun of watching this program. I'm pleased to report that the program itself maintains the suspense up to the very end, with no spoilers or hints at all: not in the feature, not in the menu, and not even in the back-cover copy of the DVD case. That's nice to see. The one thing I'll say is there's quite a bit of exciting play in this tournament, even at the very end. With a title like "Bad Boys," I wondered at first if this program would be simply a showcase for bad behavior on the part of the players. Fortunately, that's not the case at all ? in fact, these players all show a great sense of good sportsmanship. They're at it tooth and nail in the game itself, but when one of them gets knocked out, he handles it with style. Where the "bad boy" behavior comes into the scene, I think, is simply in the aggressive playing style that many of them have, as well as their various eccentricities, which may annoy or distract their opponents. In any case, the mix of personalities at the table makes for an interesting game, and fortunately one that stays focused on playing the hands. The World Poker Tour: Bad Boys of Poker program was originally made for television, and so we do end up with "and we'll be right back!
" breaks in the action where commercials would have been inserted, but overall, the program flows smoothly and at a fairly brisk pace. To be sure, there's some fluff; the hour-and-a-half program could easily have been trimmed to a single hour without losing any of the real action. Even so, though, it's short enough that a little padding doesn't hurt too much. With a combination of mini-cameras taking a peek at the players' hole cards, overhead views of the table, and on-screen graphics displaying the cards in play as well as the amounts bet by each player, the program does a great job of keeping the viewer completely up to speed as to what's going on in the game. The commentators likewise draw attention to the noteworthy elements of the game, with poker lingo quickly explained at various points in the program. Except for one short segment on the rules of Texas Hold 'Em that advanced players may decide to fast-forward through, the integration of newcomer-friendly information into the overall program is handled very well, so that advanced players and newbies alike will find the program entertaining. The DVD Video Bad Boys of Poker appears in its original television aspect ratio of 1.
33:1. The transfer offers a perfectly respectable viewing experience; the image looks clean and natural, with a good level of detail and no flaws in the image. Audio The Dolby 2.
0 soundtrack is, like the video transfer, quite satisfactory. The commentators come across clearly, and for the most part, we also hear the players at the table just fine. Extras The best special feature is the commentary track with Antonio Esfandiari ("The Magician") and Phil Laak ("The Unabomber"). The two keep up an entertaining and interesting commentary laced with friendly banter; this track definitely adds a lot to the replay value of the DVD. One word of warning: the commentary makes it very clear who wins and who gets knocked out early, so you should watch the program first without the commentary, to enjoy the suspense. The other special features are biographies of the "bad boys," and a section of "Bad Boy Moments.
" These are video clips from other World Poker Tour events that feature various high-profile poker players (mostly different ones than the ones in the Bad Boys of Poker main program) acting up in some way, either trash-talking or reacting in enthusiasm or despair to the results of a hand. It's only mildly interesting, since we don't have much context for the clips. Final thoughts I found World Poker Tour: Bad Boys of Poker to be quite entertaining, more so than I expected. It covers a single invitational tournament, with five "bad boys" and one newcomer at the table, from beginning to end, and includes quite a bit of exciting play. The commentary track with Antonio Esfandiari and Phil Laak adds a nice touch of replayability to the program as well. Recommended.