Five Movie Stars Who Swap the Silver Screen for the Poker Table
Poker has featured dozens of times in Hollywood blockbusters. Who can forget the famous Royal Flush scene in Maverick, or Steve McQueen in The Cincinnati Kid. And no poker player in the world would ever talk about poker at the movies without mentioning the fantastic 1998 hit Rounders.
Just because an actor can portray themselves as a poker player, it does not mean they can actually play the game. Many try. Most fail. But this quintet of actors and actresses have shown they can hold their own at the poker table when they take some time away from the silver screen.
Jennifer Tilly has been acting since 1983 and is showing no signs of slowing down despite the fact she will be 61-year-old in mid September. Tilly has starred in films such as The Fabulous Baker Boys, Bound, Liar Liar, in addition to becoming a horror cult icon for her portrayal of Tiffany Valentine in the Child’s Play / Chucky series of movies.
Tilly, who has been in a relationship with professional poker player Phil Laak since 2004, is a keen poker player herself and one with more than $1 million in cashes. Her first recorded live tournament cash came in June 2005 when she won the $1,000 Ladies Only Event at the World Series of Poker (WSOP) for $158,335 and a coveted gold WSOP bracelet.
If you thought Tilly’s first live cash was impressive, wait until you read about the first time Ben Affleck flexed his muscles in the poker world.
The star of more than 50 films, including Good Will Hunting, Armageddon, Pearl Harbor, and of course Batman, entered the $10,000 California State Poker Championship in Los Angeles in 2004 and went on to outlast 89 opponents to secure the $356,400 top prize.
Affleck was named in Molly Bloom’s book and subsequent film Molly’s Game as being one of many A-list Hollywood celebrities who used to play private high stakes cash games run by Bloom. Some hands awarded pots as high as $4 million, although nobody is willing to state who the big winners and losers were.
The girl everyone fell in love with in the 1999 blockbuster American Pie, Shannon Elizabeth, is also a keen poker player although he time of the tables has taken a back seat recently.
Elizabeth’s movies may not have been the greatest, expect of course American Pie, but they elevated her status t a level that she can now do the world some good with her charity work. The environmentalist and vegan animal over founded a non-profit animal rescue organization called Animal Avengers.
In poker, Elizabeth accumulated more than $225,000 in winnings between 2006-2010, the bulk of which stemmed from her third-place finish in the $25,000 NBC National Heads-Up Championship that netted her $125,000. She did not cash in a live event between July 2010 and August 2013 and has not cashed since then. Perhaps we will see her at a poker table again soon.
Spider-Man actor Tobey Maguire may not have been able to use his character’s “spider sense” when at the poker tables but he is apparently a solid player without any special powers at his disposal.
Maguire is not active in the live poker tournament world these days, although he was a regular feature in Los Angeles and Las Vegas from 2004 to 2007 where he managed to cash for $218,858. Maguire won $95,480 when he triumphed in the 2004 National Championship of Poker in Inglewood and put together a deep run in the 2007 WSOP Main Event that saw him bank $39,445 for a 292nd place finish.
After being named in the aforementioned Molly’s Game book, which all went sour, Maguire has shone the limelight when it comes to playing poker. Surely he still dabbles in cash games now and then?
Head to the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino during the WSOP and you are likely to catch a glimpse of A Few Good Men, The Usual Suspects, Casino, and End of Days actor Kevin Pollak.
Pollak is often found playing in charity poker events around the United States and regularly heads to “Sin City” during the WSOP to fire a few bullets at events. In 2012, Pollak finished 134th from 6,598 entrants in the $10,000 buy-in Main Event won by Greg Merson, for a $52,718 score. He was also present at this year’s 2019 WSOP Main Event, eventually falling in 986th place for a $15,970 prize.
Honorable mentions go to Breaking Bad star Aaron Paul, Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Jason Alexander, and Nick Cassavetes.