Model, actress, and television spokesperson Shana Hiatt is best known for hosting the first three seasons of the Travel Channel’s World Poker Tour from 2002 to 2005. Her fun and insightful commentary introduced many viewers to the exciting world of high stakes poker, the exotic locations, poker personalities, and interesting tidbits about the game.
Hiatt’s charm and charisma catapulted her popularity in the poker world and she became a household name amongst fans. She was even named as one of Maxim Magazine’s “Hot 100” in 2005.
While she built a successful career that included modeling, acting, and hosting different shows, Shana Hiatt is also known for her lawsuit against World Poker Tour executives (we’ll get to that in a minute).
Shana Hiatt before poker
Hiatt originally hails from Tabernacle Township, New Jersey and grew up an army brat. At the age of eight, Hiatt became quite interested in television, particularly the news and its anchors. After she graduated high school, she applied to Burlington County College, intent on becoming a journalist. However, at age 18, Hiatt discovered that modeling was extremely lucrative.
After only two years in the modeling industry, Hiatt won a local Beach Haven, New Jersey pageant. Then, in 1995, Shana Hiatt received the Miss Hawaiian Tropic USA title. She then went on to grace the cover and have a nude photo spread in Playboy’s April 1995 The Girls of Hawaiian Tropic issue, as well as appearing on the cover of Playboy’s The Girls of Hawaiian Tropic video photo shoot for that issue. Hiatt was also the Keystone Light girl in 2002.
Hiatt has also appeared in the films Must Love Dogs alongside John Cusack and Diane Lane and Grandma’s Boy and was a guest host on the E! network’s Wild On!
Prior to hosting the World Poker Tour, Hiatt didn’t really play poker. Her interest in the game stemmed from her marriage to World Poker Tour co-host Vince van Patten’s brother, James, and the fact that he played. At the time, she said, “I was one of many hopefuls to audition for WPT producers … and I was thrilled to get the job so that I could learn more about the game.” Hiatt and van Patten were married from 1999 to 2005.
World Poker Tour lawsuit
Shana Hiatt left the World Poker Tour in 2005 with the intent of being the next host of High Stakes Poker. However, in October 2006, she sued producers for injunctive relief and punitive damages for “intentional interference with economic advantage.” Hiatt sought a restraining order to prevent World Poker Tour Enterprises and WPT founder and CEO Steve Lipscomb from preventing her from working on rival show Poker After Dark.
In response, the WPT argued that her contract included a non-compete clause; however, Hiatt maintained that she never signed it and that the WPT’s options on Hiatt’s services had already expired, thus leaving her free to work wherever she wanted.
Additional court records revealed that Hiatt—an instrumental figure in the development and success of World Poker Tour—left due to a “hostile work environment” involving the spread of alleged rumors about her and her new husband, movie producer Todd Garner whom she wed in 2005. The suit also named additional John Does, likely related to this issue.
Interestingly, Hiatt was not the first to sue the WPT. Earlier that same year, seven professional poker players brought suit against the company alleging that its business practices concerning the release players are required to sign to participate in WPT events violates players’ intellectual property rights and other preexisting endorsement agreements.
In spite of her lawsuit, Hiatt never worked on High Stakes Poker. While many believed Hiatt would take A.J. Benza’s place alongside Gabe Kaplan for season 6, it never materialized. Instead, Kara Scott became host.
Other hosting appearances
In November, 2003—during the height of her World Poker Tour success—Shana Hiatt became the official spokesperson for PartyPoker.com. Her face graced the site’s banner ads until 2006 when the passage of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) forced the company out of the U.S. market.
In 2006, NBC’s Poker After Dark named Hiatt co-host alongside Oliver “Ali” Nejad. This program—set in a private room of various Las Vegas Strip casinos—provided viewers an intimate look at high-stakes poker games played by some of the world’s top pros such as Daniel Negreanu, Gus Hansen, Phil Ivey, Doyle Brunson, and Jennifer Harman. The hugely successful Poker After Dark developed a cult-like following among late night television viewers. Hiatt hosted this program for its first two seasons.
Hiatt also acted as hostess for the prestigious National Heads-Up Poker Championship. In 2008, Hiatt stopped hosting both programs so she could travel with her husband and care for their one-year-old son. Leeann Tweeden took over for Hiatt following her departure.
Since then, Shana Hiatt hasn’t appeared in front of the camera. As for poker, Hiatt is an active online player who, at times, will venture into a casino for some live action.
Until next time.
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