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The Rise of Celebrity Poker Leagues - Hollywood's Fascination with Casino Games

Today, people are obsessed with the stars on the screen and the celebrity culture scene. If you’re someone in the spotlight, you’ll always have fans wanting to know your every move. It’s quite the scary prospect, we'd say.

Yet one aspect of the celebrity world has nothing to do with that. It’s one that we’re happy to spectate. After all, it combines two of our favorite things – celebrities and casino games. We are, of course, talking about the rise of celebrity poker leagues. Now more than ever before, celebrities are spending their time playing cards against each other in some of the biggest poker tournaments and leagues.

It's a novel enough phenomenon, but it’s also taking Hollywood by storm. What better way could there be for superfans of actors, musicians, and athletes to try their favorite star than in a gaming setting? Of course, in some instances, these are private affairs held in the backrooms of some of the most famous land-based casinos in Las Vegas and not open to the public to witness.

That’s likely how celebrities prefer to play games, for the most part, in any case. Yet there are also those moments when stars have put their poker skills on display for the masses to watch.

Here, we’re going to look at the rising popularity of celebrity poker leagues and games. Which stars have already engaged in the activity and helped raise its popularity in Hollywood? And which of those stars are just dipping their feet into the "pool"?

Celebrity Poker Leagues

From Hollywood to the Poker Table - The Allure of Celebrity Tournaments

Various celebrities are already known to enjoy poker with their friends. The World Series of Poker has grown massively in popularity since it began operating, and in 2022, over 88 tournaments with 120,000 entries were witnessed. Several well-known celebrities have also entered the WSOP tournaments over the years. These include superstars like Matt Damon, Edward Norton, Ben Affleck, Jennifer Tilly, Tobey Maguire, Hugh Jackman and many more.

The list goes on, as throughout the years, it has become quite the thing to turn up at a WSOP tournament, or indeed any other sort of gambling tournament. Affleck, Damon, Tilly, and Maguire are frequent offenders when it comes to turning up at poker rooms and in tournaments to play a few rounds. The truth is that celebrities who love gambling will always draw people in for a few hands of poker. The fascination with Hollywood celebrities and sports stars is something that can provide an appeal that isn’t found anywhere else.

Yet even before this rise in appeal for celebrity poker tournaments today, there has been quite the buzz around it for many years now.

Back in 2003, an American celebrity game show entitled Celebrity Poker Showdown began airing on television. It was a limited-run series, which saw celebrities playing poker in eight tournaments over its five-season run to 2006. This witnessed five celebrities entering a no limit Texas Hold’em tournament, with winnings going to charity. The winners of each qualifying game also won a silver commemorative poker chip along with advancing to the championship game. The winner of that received a gold commemorative poker chip. Each tournament featured 25 celebrities, with six episodes per season.

Some of the celebrities who appeared on the game show included famous gamblers like Ben Affleck and Jennifer Tilly alongside amateurs who love the game like, Don Cheadle, David Schwimmer, Paul Rudd, Carrie Fisher, Matthew Perry, Dennis Rodman, Rosie O'Donnel and many more.

Again, the list could go on and on, and several names entered tournaments in several seasons. Willie Garson, for example, was in game one of the first tournament, and game one of the third tournament. Matthew Perry entered game four of the second tournament and won game one of the fourth tournament.

The tournament finals in the eight seasons were won respectively by Nicole Sullivan, Maura Tierney, Seth Meyers, Mekhi Phifer, Brad Garrett, Kathy Najimy, Steven Culp, and Jason Alexander.

A similar show aired in the United Kingdom, with the title of Celebrity Poker Club. A total of three seasons between 2003 and 2005 took place as a spin-off of the popular Late Night Poker series. Naturally, this featured British celebrities, with the winners of each of the three seasons being entrepreneur and inventor Sir Clive Sinclair, writer and TV presenter Victoria Coren Mitchell, and actor A.D. Bower, respectively.

Celebrity poker tournaments

Celebrity Poker Nights - Las Vegas Showcases and Charitable Wins

Because of how popular celebrity poker gaming has become these days, various establishments have set up their venues to host such. Companies even dedicate sectors of their business to providing them, like Seven Hills Global. This brand organises private celebrity poker tournaments with World Series of Poker player appearances. A multitude of choices to be able to customise the poker gaming experience are on hand through the company.

Of course, when it comes to the Hollywood stars, most of the leagues and tournaments operating for them occur within Las Vegas, as is to be expected. The Celebrity Poker Gala takes place there, and this has seen stars like Daniel Baldwin, Miguel A. Nunez Jr., Andy Dick, and Omarosa Manigault take part.

Recently, there was a celebrity poker tournament that took place at Circa Las Vegas. This raised $175,000 for young cancer patients. Taking place on May 3, 2023, the event was hosted by retired baseball Hall of Famer Greg Maddux. It featured a variety of other sports stars, including Frank Thomas, Roger Clemens, Tito Ortiz, and Deryk Engelland. The winner was former NFL guard Evan Mathias, who claimed $75,000 for charity. Attendees were also able to take part in a silent auction, which raised a further $70,000.

One thing is for sure in all of this – celebrity poker gameplay is at the height of fashion, so to speak. This means that we are likely to see more games of this nature take place, featuring all our favourite stars. Look out for more on the horizon!

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