Poker Night in America announces plans to launch a new show called The King of the Hill, but it feels a little pushed and pointless.
In a few hours time, I will take my ten-month-old daughter out of the bath, dry her, dress her, and read her favourite bedtime story. It’s the one where we have to guess the little kitten’s favourite colour. My daughter always claps her hands at the end.
“Again!” She says.
It’s the one thing that keeps her rooted to the spot; plot lines swimming around in her DNA, pulling her towards the core of the earth. Internal and external narratives will guide her throughout life. The story gives rise to meaning, but for a story to work, it must have meaning.
The King of the Hill is a $50,000 buy-in heads-up tournament featuring four professional poker players, competing in a winner takes all format. The game will be No-Limit Hold’em (NLHE). The four players with the task of making the thing work include the 14-time World Series of Poker (WSOP) bracelet winner, Phil Hellmuth, the recent One Drop High Roller winner, Doug Polk, former WSOP Player of the Year, Frank Kassela, and the one and only Daniel ‘Jungleman’ Cates. And the quartet has a monumental task on their hands because I don’t understand what PNIA are trying to achieve with this one.
As a kid, I used to go crazy over WWE wrestling, and one of the more exciting Pay-Per-View events was the King of the Ring. There is something about the brackets that make sports fans want to beat up a Mickey Mouse mascot.
But imagine if Vince McMahon decided to feature four of his WWE Superstars.
The winner is the King of the Ring.
It wouldn’t work, because it doesn’t give the tournament enough time to conjure up the core tenets of a good story: theme, inciting incident, an all is lost moment, obstacles, hero, villain, and the heroes journey.
And that’s why I don’t think King of the Hill works.
It’s just not turning me on.
The War of Art author, Steven Pressfield, once said that every story has to be about something, and because I don’t know what King of the Hill is about, it doesn’t flick my bean.
There is no theme.
There is no inciting incident and no room for one.
There is a clear hero in Phil Hellmuth Jr, and a clear villain in Doug Polk, but we won’t get to see them fighting it out for the title because they clash in the first round.
Jungleman is worth the entrance fee, alone, but what did the Casting Director think when he handed the part to Frank Kassela. The last time I looked, Kassela wasn’t a top draw star that poker fans are falling over to see playing on Twitch.
The New York Rivers Casino & Resorts plays host on August 22-23, and a PNIA Twitter poll currently has Doug Polk pegged in as favourite.
PokerShares thinks otherwise, with Jungleman the bookies favourite to win the $200,000 first prize, an opening raise in some of his games.
I’m surprised anyone is even offering odds.
The event has a last minute feel to it, like a group of PNIA executives got into a room one day and said, “Quick, we need to think of a new show to keep pace with PokerGO. They have just created the Poker Masters. They are giving away a purple jacket! We need something, fast!”
“Why not choose four poker players, and let them compete in heads-up matches with the winner taking home $200,000.”
“Great idea, that’s never been done before. What shall we call it?”
“How about the King of the Hill?”
“That doesn’t make sense.”
“I know! Nuts right?”
“I agree, let’s go for it.”
The grudge match between Cate Hall and Mike Dentale worked like a charm because it ticked all of the boxes of conventional storytelling. It had a theme – misogyny. There was a three-act structure – beginning (the build up), the middle (the game), and the end (Hall winning). There were a hero and villain. And there was an inciting incident (the moment Dentale criticised Hall on Twitter).
In contrast, The King of the Hill is missing all of the key pieces. PNIA can only hope that their four stars come up with something pretty special to keep this idea from ending up in the scrap heap because at the moment, I’m more interested in reading a ten-month-old book about kittens.