Gambling Celebs Part 2 – The Newbies
There is a well-established precedent of celebrities enjoying gambling both on-and-off-screen and the current generation of stars is no exception. From model turned actress Shannon Elizabeth to rapper turned actor 50 Cent, there is no shortage of celebrities participating in poker tournaments or sports betting at any given time.Without question the most successful celebrity poker player of all is actress Jennifer Tilly. Tilly is the only celebrity to have won a WSOP bracelet after her success in the 2005 Ladies’ No-Limit Texas Hold’Em event during which she beat 600 other players to take the prize of $158,625.
Since then Tilly has gone on to cash at numerous other events and her live winnings to date total an impressive $743,069.It’s possible that Tilly has been passing on tips to Shannon Elizabeth with whom she co-stared in the 2008 film Deal which features the two actresses participating in a Las Vegas poker tournament. Elizabeth, despite becoming famous for her good looks, has easily proved that she’s more than just a pretty face through her success at the poker table. She is often referred to as one of the leading celebrity poker players and is frequently seen on the tournament circuit. Elizabeth has cashed an impressive four times in the World Series of Poker including both second and third place in the Ante Up for Africa Charity Poker Tournament and at the NBC National Heads-Up Poker Championship. Her live earnings total an extremely respectable $235,866 over the last eight years and the figure is sure to keep growing. There’s no doubt that her live tournament experience has proved invaluable in some of her screen roles. As well as the film Deal, Elizabeth’s gambling related roles include the 2007 film The Grand, an improvisational comedy in which the actors were taking part in an actual poker tournament.
In the 2013 film Runner Runner Ben Affleck plays the corrupt online gambling tycoon Ivan Block who is ultimately tricked, arrested and made to pay for his crimes and while no-one is accusing Affleck of any crimes in his off-screen gambling career it certainly hasn’t been without controversy.
In 2001 Affleck received treatment for his gambling addiction and though he did give it up for a while it wasn’t very long until he was once again betting. There were rumors that he was hosting his own underground poker games at the Grand Havana Room in Beverly Hills during which he supposedly ran up a debt of $400,000 to the famous Hollywood entertainment executive Ron Meyer. However, there has never been any official confirmation of these rumors.
Despite the huge amount of negative press surrounding Affleck’s gambling exploits he has had some considerable success. In 2004 he won the $9,900 + $100 No Limit Hold’em Championship at the California State Poker Championship and took home $356,400. Furthermore, one weekend Affleck was seen betting $60,000 per hand at a blackjack table in Las Vegas and later walking away with $800,000 in winnings after tipping the dealers $150,000.While not known as an actor, rapper 50 Cent (Curtis Jackson) did play himself in the 2010 film 13. The film deals with a young man, desperate to find some money to pay for his father’s medical treatment, who finds himself embroiled in a complicated game of Russian roulette.
Luckily 50 Cent is undoubtedly rich enough to pay for his own medical treatment as it looks like he may be in need of it. In 2012 he bet and won $500,000 in the NFC Championship Game after he claimed to have followed the instructions of voices in his head. Let’s hope that these voices always lead to such fortunate outcomes. Perhaps the most important film about poker ever made is the 1998 film Rounders staring Matt Damon. In the film Damon plays a reformed gambler who must return to playing high-stakes games in order to help a friend pay off loan sharks. Damon reportedly took the role so seriously that while preparing for it he spent $25,000 playing poker in order to gain some experience and get a feel for the game.
Since then Damon has continued to play and even did reasonably well at the 2008 and 2010 WSOP. He has also continued his association with on-screen gambling appearing in both Ocean’s 11 (2001) and Ocean’s 13 (2007). Rounding up this brief examination of celebrity gamblers is Ashton Kutcher. Kutcher’s involvement in gambling has never been very clear. It is known that he enjoys playing poker as in 2005 he paid poker professional Annie Duke $14,000 for a private lesson. Furthermore, he once claimed to be involved in the “largest national sports betting syndicate in America” for half a season and clearing $750,000 before the bookies caught on. Aside from that not much is known about Kutcher’s gambling habits, but perhaps he learned to err on the side of caution after his role in the 2008 film What Happens in Vegas where he plays Jack Fuller, a man who wakes up after a drunken night in Vegas to find himself married to a stranger.