Update: USPoker contributor Anthony Cicali and his poker podcast co-host Brian Keane won $83,000 on Wednesday night’s show. Cicali also proposed to his girlfriend live on TV.
Poker buddies and podcasters Anthony Cicali and Brian Keane are taking their love for competition to a new medium – a CBS game show.
Cicali, a USPoker contributor and recent winner of a $100,000 Borgata mystery bounty, and Keane are regular poker players and co-hosts of the Nerdthusiast Poker Podcast. The pair are now set to battle on the new Lingo game show, which airs Wednesday night on CBS. Being asked to possibly appear on the show came as a bit of a surprise.
“Anthony and I applied for an unrelated game show several years prior and never heard back,” Keane says. “I’m assuming the casting or production company still had our applications and information on file because I was contacted to see if we would be interested in filling out an application for Lingo, which we did and obviously ended up getting selected after a pretty lengthy process.”
Did they take home some big prizes? That remains to be seen and viewers will have to tune in to see. However, the two men spoke with USPoker this week about being on the show.
Poker table to television set
Lingo dates back to the original version in 1987 with teams of two people deciphering a series of word puzzles. The show has been revived through the years with versions hosted by Michal Reagan and Chuck Woolery.
Now in its fourth incarnation, the new version is hosted by RuPaul. The two contestants were familiar with the show and thought they brought some unique skills to be successful.
“I knew of Lingo from watching the old school game show on the Game Show Network when I was in college,” Keane says. “Plus, the game itself is very similar to Wordle, which I was playing daily at this point anyway so it was definitely something I was excited to get involved with.”
Applying did not mean these longtime friends from New Jersey were cast and there was quite a lengthy process.
“At first we were a little skeptical at our chances but we both kind of just said ‘screw it, let’s see what happens,’” Keane says. “I love word games and puzzles, crosswords, all that kind of stuff, so this was right up my alley. Plus I’m super competitive, so once I started playing the game on the app I was pretty much hooked and saw it as a good opportunity for us to potentially win some money.”
The selection process involved multiple interviews over the course of several months. One of these interviews took place via Zoom while Keane was on a vacation with family.
“I remember sitting in the media center at the resort praying the Internet connection was strong enough – it was all pretty stressful,” he says. “My passport had also expired, so I needed to get that expedited and shipped out before the scheduled recording dates. It was a pretty intense but exciting process to say the least.”
In front of the camera, using their poker skills
Once the pair were booked on the show, Keane and Cicali flew to Manchester, United Kingdom, for filming. When the cameras rolled, some background on the poker felt paid off. So many hours at the tables prepared them for such an intense experience.
“Our poker backgrounds helped us in a few spots during the show,” Cicali says. “One, we love competitions and generally end up heads up in our home poker games. So it was nice to work on the same team for once.
“Also, our ability to play in high-pressure situations was probably a little less stressful than other contestants due to our abilities to play in bigger buy-in events with a lot of people. One moment arrived where we had a choice of picking which position we wanted to take in the Lingo Showdown. Brian and I obviously used our position to our advantage in the game, and were able to gauge the other team’s skills and get familiar with the last round before we jumped in.”
Beyond that, the two also believe the ability to read situations helped immensely. Cicali says Brian was good at deciphering words while he focused on making sure they had words within the allotted time.
“While Brian was deciphering, I was trying to use memorized words that would help introduce other characters we hadn’t used yet so we could figure it out faster,” Cicali says. “Overall it was a great experience and we enjoyed the competition.”
My Stream Schedule 2/13:
— Anthony F Cicali III / EataHoagie (@EataHoagie) February 14, 2023
Look for a surprise ending
These word sleuths can’t reveal whether they won or lost, but promise a surprise ending when the episode airs. Both agree that everything turned out well however.
“We obviously have to thank everyone involved in the making of the show, like CBS and RuPaul, for the amazing opportunity,” Keane says. “This was an incredible experience for both of us. From a poker player’s perspective, I feel like we both used the competitive side of poker to help us lock in because we both were hyper-focused on studying and really prepared a lot in advance to do well on the show.
“Plus we got to meet a lot of really great people, which just added to the entire experience. All in all, we have a pretty unique story to tell our grandkids one day, not to mention our fellow grinders at the poker table.”
* Images and video courtesy CBS/Paramount