Long view of the Maryland Live Casino poker room. Facial images have been blurred by the casino to protect player identities. (Maryland Live courtesy photo.)

Earlier this year, promoters for Poker Night in America, which taped in March and again this month at Maryland Live! in Hanover, Md., were happy to include Annapolis-based poker pro Christian Harder’s name on a press releases and to invite him to play. Between jetting across the globe for tournaments, Harder plays somewhat frequently at Maryland Live! But he may have been either too good or too obscure to score a big part on the show, which airs on the CBS Sports Network.

Unlike the World Series of Poker Main Event, which has turned some of the game’s most successful players into household names, Poker Night features a mix of amateurs and pros. But it is really less about the Bellagio high rollers than it is about the Burlington Coat Factory regulars who may be easier to relate to for those of us watching at home. Last year, the show featured mortgage consultant Gene Drubetskoy, then 33, of Reisterstown playing seven pros who collectively had won a total of nine World Series of Poker Main Events.

Harder has sat across from many of the same players many times, and so he was a little perplexed when he didn’t make the cut for the cast.

Not a big enough poker personality to play Poker Night in America at my home casino,” he tweeted a couple of weeks ago. 

“They were looking more for guys who aren’t professional poker players who want to play with professional poker players,” Harder said in an interview last week. “I guess they wanted some new blood.”

Harder has an idea what that new blood looks like. His bet for this year’s Poker Night in America breakout star is Dumpster Joe.

“He is a huge character,” Harder said. “He owns a dump truck company and some restaurants. He is going to be great for TV.”

So far, Harder’s bet is looking good. The show returned to Hanover this week to do some more filming with Joe and World Series of Poker Champ Phil Hellmuth, among others. Hellmuth tweeted Tuesday, “Got bluffed out by 3 high in this hand on ‘Poker Night in America’ by a guy called ‘Dumpster Joe!'”

So far the only potential glitch to Joe’s burgeoning reality television career is being overshadowed by the sight of Hellmuth dressed as a giant baby.

As for Harder, no need to worry about him. On Tuesday, he won Maryland Live’s summer series of poker main event and walked out with just over $82,000.