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GSN's Next Hand: Poker, Wild Cards

GSN will up the ante on its commitment to poker shows, while branching out to other genres, in its next batch of shows.

Two of seven series in development for the network focus on the game. In Annie Duke Takes on the World, the pro-poker player faces off in Texas Hold ‘em against four amateurs. GSN’s ordered a pilot of the show from Duke and Andrew Golder (Win Ben Stein’s Money). In Phil Hellmuth Poker, the World Series of Poker champ teaches amateurs skills through physical and mental challenges. Producers on the show include Hellmuth and R.J. Cutler (30 Days).

“We want to own this space as much as we can given that others are doing poker shows,” said Senior VP of Programming Ian Valentine. “We’re not like Travel or ESPN where this is just an occasional thing we’re doing.”

The network is set to begin production July 25 on The James Woods Gang vs. The Unabombers in Poker Royale, the latest in its Casino Night poker franchise, which runs on Friday nights. In this installment, actor James Woods heads up a team of celebs facing off against Phil “The Unabomber” Laak and a team of expert players.

In other series development, GSN ordered a pilot for I’ve Got a Secret, this time with all gay guests. The show, from Burt Dubrow Productions (Jerry Springer). will likely be slotted in an 11 p.m. strip.

Additional shows in development include reality show 24 Hours in Vegas from Gavin Polone at Pariah Productions, in which players work various jobs in Sin City; Chokers from Stone & Company Entertainment, a docu-drama on people and teams who have fallen apart at critical moments in games; reality game show Your Worst Nightmare from Hallock Healey Entertainment,  which traps three friends in scary spaces like graveyards and prisons and sees if they can escape; and Wet from Mark Cronin and James Rowley of Mindless Entertainment (The Surreal Life), an entirely water-based battle involving both humans and dolphins.

GSN Monday began airing The Amazing Race and reports the show, 110 episodes of which it recently acquired at a reported $55,000 apiece, has built 20-25 percent in the ratings each consecutive night it aired. The network would not release actual ratings numbers, however.

GSN, distributed to 57 million homes, averaged 300,000 total viewers in prime second quarter 2005, down 9 percent from last year.