Hip Hop Holdem - Biz Markie, Ed Lover, Zab Judah, The Game
I'm not sure how during the online casino boom I missed out on the phenomenon of hip-hop stars playing poker, but for a short period of time from 2006-2007 you could catch Hip Hop Hold 'Em late at night on the ESPN family of channels. Sadly there's little information out there about this show - a very incomplete IMDB entry and a few random articles that either suggest the show was badly done or possibly even racist, but very little written about it from a hip-hop head's point of view. You can watch hip-hop legend Biz Markie play a hand of Texas hold' em in the clip below. Do the cards have what Biz needs?
The show featured Ed Lover of Yo! MTV Raps fame as a host and Deric 'D-Dot' Angelettie as a commentator, who started out his career in the seminal group Two Kings in a Cipher but quickly gained more fame as a producer for Bad Boy Records. He subsequently used that tenure to portray a character called The Madd Rapper in a series of skits on Bad Boy releases, which ultimately led to a full length album and a mixtape about a decade later. I bring this up because it appears the mixtape came out after Hip Hop Hold 'Em had already gone off the air, which would have given D-Dot more to be MAD about. You can hear D-Dot sounding like Madd Rapper in this clip, commentating on a showdown between boxer Zab Judah and singer Ruben Studdard. I've seen a few poker shows and I feel like he does fine in the role. Shecky Greene (unheard here) also doles out tips.
Now if you've never played Texas hold 'em or video poker before, I realize the card action may be a little much to keep up with. Not surprisingly most of the articles online about this show are quick to jump on the players for that, criticizing them for not knowing whether they are winning or losing a hand. Quite honestly those people are missing the point of this show, and of most celebrity poker shows in general - it's about THE CELEBRITIES. I mean when or where else are you going to watch The Game, Lord Finesse and Rahzel the Human Beatbox sit down and play a hand of cards together?
If you're looking for a show with some true poker wizards, watch 'The Magician' Antonio Esfandiara or Phil 'The Unabomber' Laak on any late night poker show. If you're a hip-hop head who wants to see rap stars and celebrities from R&B and boxing play a few hands while Ed Lover cracks jokes, this show is just fine. Unfortunately this show was very clearly an attempt to cash in during the poker boom of the 2000's by marketing the game as "cool" to a demographic where it wasn't a good match, and the traditional poker players who caught this show are more likely to listen to Frank Sinatra than Big Poppa, so it's not surprising they took a big crap on it and the show quickly vanished from the airwaves. Thanks to the magic of YouTube though, Hip Hop Hold 'Em lives on.