Poker? I hardly even know her!

Friday, July 7, 2006 by

On Wednesday 14 June, I spent the afternoon being a right knob – but the details of this event were embargoed until today. I was taking part in a journos-only edition of Ant and Dec’s new ITV1 game show, Pokerface (formerly, The Con Test).


So there I was, courtesy of ITV publicity, facing off against Natalie Jamieson from Radio 1, Beth Neil (the Mirror), Benji Wilson (Radio Times), Neil Midgley (Daily Telegraph) and Rachel Richardson (News of the World). (The latter was the NOTW golden ticket-sporting journalist who was trying to get into the Big Brother house, fact fans).

Taking place at Fountain Studios, near Wembley, first up we were briefed on how the game works. So: Six players answer multiple-choice questions on a computer screen, each correct answer equating to moneyin your pot (with the amount per question going up each round, natch). You know how well you’re doing, but you don’t know how anyone else is getting on.

At the end of the round, Ant and Dec quiz everyone on how well they’ve done. The aim of the game is to talk up your performance, banging on about how easy it was, and how much money you’ve accumulated. You’re also invited to poor scorn on your fellow players and punch holes in their testimonies. Backbiting done, you then leave your consoles and walk up to a podium (which rises out of the ground, again, natch) upon which is a huge red button.

At this point in the game, you have the option to whack the button and “fold”, walking away with what you’ve accumulated thus far. If no-one does so within a 10 second period, then the person with the lowest total is disqualified, and – of course – they lose everything.

So, that’s the game. In practise on the day, though, with the cash totals substituted for scented candles, not one of us ever felt the urge to fold, meaning the thing progressed as pretty much a straight general knowledge competition. We still did the bitchy comments though (“I just thing Benji’s trying too hard …”) and acted like idiots.

Throughout, Ant and Dec were – well – Ant and Dec. Matey, a little bit giggly, gossipy … they laughed at our jokes. As for how I got on, well, I made it to the final “face off” with Natalie off of Radio 1 (Telegraph bloke was the first to fall, which was heartening). Emboldened by the fact I’d seen off Benji Wilson, who was bluffing with tremendous panache (in Spanish!), I could sense victory. Alas, come the reveal, Natalie had a good five grand or so more than me in the bank and I went home … with nothing. Well, I’ve kept the name badge.

TV’s controller of entertainment, Duncan Gray, is happy to admit the channel is staking a lot on the format. “The show is a very important part of our summer jigsaw,” he says.“It’s very unpredictable, and it takes the game show genre on fromDeal or No Deal?”.


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