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New pro poker league gets TV deal with CBS

A competitor takes chips during the PokerStars European Poker Tour on Jan. 20, 2010, at the Barriere Casino in Deauville, western France. Getty

(CBS/AP) A new poker league hoping to become the equivalent of the PGA has scored a television deal with CBS.

Epic Poker League told the Associated Press on Wednesday that the deal will include 20 hours of programming from five poker tournaments, including a $1 million free-roll no-limit Texas Hold 'em championship planned in February in Las Vegas.

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The league - led by well-known card professional Annie Duke and Jeffrey Pollack, a former World Series of Poker commissioner - requires players to qualify for tournaments through past results and recent wins in major live tournaments, in hopes of generating fields of only the toughest poker players.

Most major poker tournaments are open events, with players needing only to put up a buy-in to compete.

Pollack, the league's executive chairman, said he is proud of the CBS deal.

"Both companies share our commitment to providing a world-class stage and significant new exposure for poker's most talented live tournament players," Pollack said in a statement released Wednesday.

The television coverage will be hosted by sports announcer Pat O'Brien, a current Fox Sports Radio host and Emmy-winning former TV sports announcer who covered Olympics, Super Bowls and other sports and entertainment.

His co-host will be Ali Nejad, a commentator for previous poker television coverage including the National Heads-Up Poker Championship and "Poker After Dark." Nejad also is a poker player who cashed at a smaller World Series of Poker tournament in 2005.

Most of the Epic tournaments will air on Velocity, a Discovery Communications network launching in October.

Officials said the televised episodes will be produced by the same company that produced the World Series of Poker from 2003 to 2010.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.