Celebrities and poker have gone hand in hand in popular culture for decades. Images of Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin at the poker table glamourize the fun and spectacle of Las Vegas in the 1960’s. There has always been a link with celebrities and their gambling extravagances. The rich and famous routinely take weekend trips and even weekday trips to casinos. Maybe there’s a reason they built Las Vegas so close to Los Angeles...
Poker is a game of high stakes and massive swings of money. The reason why it is so exciting to watch on TV and has become somewhat of a phenomenon is that the highs and lows are so dramatic. One minute a player could have the most money at the table and the next, he could be walking home with nothing that he or she sat down with. Televised poker started getting more popular when the World Series of poker was broadcast on ESPN. In 2003 Chris Moneymaker won the WSOP main event and televised poker was never the same. Tournaments and cash games started being shown on a regular basis. Huge sums of money were exchanged and the dramatics of the game were on display for the world.
Celebrities started showing up for these televised events. For the first time ever, working professionals in a “sport” were competing with semi-professional celebrities who had the bank to play the game. Televised tournaments would naturally turn their cameras to the famous faces that were in attendance. And because the game of poker involves a fair amount of luck, sometimes these celebrities would do well and make the final table, trying to beat out their more experienced counterparts. Here we discuss some of the more notable famous faces that just can’t keep away from the poker table.
10 Ben Affleck
9 Sam Simon
8 Jennifer Tilly
7 Matt Damon
Actor Matt Damon played the main character in the famous poker movie Rounders. The movie became a cult classic and helped to bring on the soon-to-be poker boom. The film showcased Damon in the role of a character paying his way through law school by competing in underground poker games. In real life he is a poker enthusiast along with his buddy Ben Affleck. He has been seen on TV in various World Series of Poker events. Rumour has it that Damon and fellow “Rounders” star Edward Norton are eager to make the sequel to the cult hit.
6 Norm MacDonald
Funny-man Norm MacDonald has been playing in underground poker games and live tournaments for a long time. He was a known gambler in his early days in comedy and famously had major swings in winnings while playing in underground games. There was a rumour flying around for a while that the main character in the movie Rounders was based on Norm because of his underground poker club habit. He hosted a poker TV show for a while, called “High Stakes Poker” which aired on the Game Show Network.
5 Tobey Maguire
4 Shannon Elizabeth
3 James Woods
Hollywood Icon James Woods has won numerous awards for his roles in many great films. He has two Academy Awards nominations. He is notorious for attending many Hollywood poker home-games, playing against producers and actors alike. It was reported that he has at least 22 reported cashed in official tournaments. He gave his endorsement to the poker website Hollywood Poker. He even writes blogs for the site on poker ideas and strategies.
2 Rafael Nadal
Tennis legend Rafael Nadal is an avid poker player and even signed on as a sponsored player at Pokerstars.com. Nadal started playing more poker when he went through a serious lower body injury and had extended periods of time off to recover. He became obsessed with the game and continued to work on it until he finally was able to do what he does best, WIN. He is sponsored by one of the most popular poker websites and is featured in their television ads. He has been known to go on hot streaks on the site and win many tournaments.
1 Michael Phelps
Michael Phelps is the most decorated Olympian in history. His achievements in the pool are without parallel, but it’s playing at the poker table that has raised the most eyebrows. He has been reported to have had many cashes at tournaments and was once heard to have made over $100,000 at a cash game. He denies that report, but he has been seen hanging with friends, many of whom are notorious high-rolling poker professionals.