?Can six people sitting around a four-by-eight felt-covered table make for compelling television? You bet. And bet they do on the Travel Channel's addictive World Poker Tour, which concludes its 13-week run on June 25 with the $3 million championship from Las Vegas. Filmed before live audiences at such sexy locales as Aruba and Paris, the WPT is engrossing not only because huge fortunes are won and lost but also because of the Hole Card Cam. The game is Texas Hold 'Em, and thanks to tiny cameras, viewers see the players' hole cards (the first two cards of a hand, which face down) and thus get unfettered insight into who's bluffing and who's not. The show's announcers (poker pro Mike Sexton and actor Vince Van Patten) steer viewers smoothly through the nomenclature of the game. "We've managed to put the audience in the seat," says Steve Lipscomb, founder of the WPT. "When you're watching you feel like you're the one making the million-dollar decision." More than 40 million Americans play poker, and the WPT has become the top-rated show on the Travel Channel. Its three weekly airings pull in 3 million to 5 million viewers. Lipscomb is negotiating with the Travel Channel for a long-term deal (the show will return next year), though he's also been approached by three other cable networks. Looks like Lipscomb is holding a pretty good hand.
?While all eyes will be on Lance Armstrong next month as he tries to win his fifth straight Tour de France, Outdoor Life Network's indefatigable Phil Liggett, a.k.a. the Voice of Cycling, expects other U.S. fireworks. Liggett, who'll be covering his 31st Tour, predicts that Tyler Hamilton, Armstrong's former U.S. Postal Service teammate, will finish among the top three. Hamilton was 15th in the race last year.