Wonderwall Listomania - Celebrity Poker Stars


National Card Playing Day -- yes, that's real -- is on Dec. 28. To commemorate the occasion, Wonderwall sat down with World Series of Poker champion and entertainment industry insider Jamie Gold, who gave us the scoop on the celebrities who love poker.

Scroll through to see the famous poker players, and if you happen to sit at a table with them, then remember the famous line from the movie "Rounders": "If you can't spot the sucker in the first half-hour at the table, then you are the sucker."

Jennifer Love Hewitt

While it takes at least a party of five for a good card game, actress Jennifer Love Hewitt isn't exactly looking to turn pro anytime soon. "The first time I met her -- three years ago -- she was just learning the rules of the game," says Gold. "But I bet she can really play now."

Kirstie Alley

Between dancing and losing weight, Kirstie Alley has a lot of hobbies, and playing poker is one of them. "She's a blast," says Gold. "When I played with her, she was on Twitter the whole time. I think she won more twitter followers than chips that night."

Ben Affleck

He's been playing Mr. Mom a lot these days to his girls, Violet and Seraphina, but when he gets a night out with the boys, Ben Affleck likes to hit the tables. "He's been playing for a long time, but he doesn't take it too seriously, so you can have a lot of fun with him," says Gold. "If you see him in a celebrity tournament, just realize that he's been playing for at least 10 years so he knows what he's doing."

Matt Damon

Because there is nothing Ben Affleck can do that he can't do better, you can also find Matt Damon at a poker table near you. He also starred in "Rounders," a popular poker movie. "His character in 'Rounders' was the catalyst for me taking the game seriously," says Gold. "When I told him that he was central to me winning $12 million at the World Series, he joked about wanting a cut."

Jon Hamm

If you aren't already distracted by his good looks, then Jon Hamm can also get you to fold your winning hand with his charm and sense of humor. "He's so serious and suave on television, but he's one of the funniest people at the tables," says Gold.

Anne Hathaway

While it must be hard for Anne Hathaway to find the time to play cards between her movie career and recent engagement, deep down she's a card shark at heart. "She's really intuitive and completely aware of everything that's going on," says Gold. "She's just beginning to play, but she'll be great."

Tobey Maguire

The former "Spider-Man" star got in a little hot water this year when he got busted for being a part of an illegal poker game, but trouble aside, Tobey Maguire should bring his superpowers back to a poker room soon. "He's finally done with that ridiculous lawsuit, and he's too good of a poker player not to be back at the tables," says Gold.

Paris Hilton

She's really good at spending money, but when it comes to gambling, Paris Hilton doesn't exactly just give it away -- unless it's for charity. "I was hosting a charity poker tournament at the Cannes Film Festival, and she was nice enough to support the event," says Gold. "The crowd was so excited about her being there that she had to spend more time taking pictures than playing cards."

Teri Hatcher

She may play a girl-next-door type on "Desperate Housewives" but don't let her sweetness fool you at the poker table. "She's smart and savvy with cards in her hands," says Gold. "Her 'poker smile' can throw you off your game, so be careful there."

Maria Bello

"Prime Suspect" star Maria Bello may show her smarts while fighting crime, but hey, she also starred in the gambling movie "The Cooler," so maybe she picked up some card-playing skills there. "She's so sharp and wise as a player -- the exact qualities you need to be successful in no limit hold 'em. She has a real future as a player," says Gold.

Ricki Lake

Ricki Lake finished in third place on this past season of "Dancing With the Stars," but in a poker game she often finishes first. Her trick? "She can charm her way through a bluff," says Gold. "Stay out of her way!"

Jennifer Tilly

After winning a World Series event in 2005, Tilly basically made poker a full-time commitment. She's also been dating poker pro Phil Laak for the past six years, so the last thing you want to do is treat her like some actress at the poker tables. "She now divides her time equally between acting and playing poker professionally," says Gold. "Don't make the mistake of not taking her seriously."

Pamela Anderson

She's spent a lot of time in Las Vegas over the years, but Pamela Anderson usually uses her poker playing skills to win money for PETA and other charities. "Her poker charity events raise a ton of money for various causes, but she gets so much attention that it is nearly impossible for her to focus on the game," says Gold.

Don Cheadle

Actor Don Cheadle once defeated poker champion Phil Ivey in the first round of a heads-up poker championship, so you know he means business at the tables. "He takes the game very seriously," says Gold. "He uses poker to raise money for various charities and does it with grace."

Adam Sandler

His movies seem to get more ridiculous each year, but the money keeps pouring in for Adam Sandler, who doesn't exactly rush to gamble it away. "People say that Bill Gates loves poker but will only play $10 hands," says Gold. "Someone said Sandler is the same way. He's in it just for the fun of the game."

Camryn Manheim

While most celebrities hit up Jamie Gold and other poker pros for lessons on how to better their game, actress Camryn Manheim is good enough now to help fellow stars improve their skills. "She's such a great poker teacher," says Gold. "Good luck trying to beat her."

Shannon Elizabeth

The "American Pie" cast recently reunited to film the latest installment of the movie series, and if they cast used down time to play cards, then there's a good chance Shannon Elizabeth walked away the winner. She's played in the World Series, and even beat out 83 others to win a tournament once. "A true student of the game, Shannon doesn't let much distract her," says Gold. "But watch out -- she can sure distract a table full of men."

Julie Bowen

"Modern Family" star Julie Bowen is just one of the many celebrities who will play cards for charity, as she;s pictured doing for the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research. Whether it's for a good cause or a real competition, celebrities are all getting in on the action. "All the stars are playing poker these days," says Gold. "The game has really taken over Hollywood."

Jim Carrey

Funnyman Jim Carrey is a man of a million faces, but a poker face is still sort of new to the actor. "He's just beginning to play, but I am dedicated to making him a great player," says Gold.

Brad Garret and Ray Romano

Along with fellow former sitcom stars Jason Alexander and Drew Carey, Brad Garrett and Ray Romano are big on the poker scene. They can often be found at games together, because everybody loves poker. "Believe it or not, they are even more fun to play with then they are to watch on TV," says Gold.

Can Poker Save the World?

by Kate Moulene

Americans are facing some serious challenges. Our national debt is $14,275,534,380,225.86 and growing. If you are not good at math, that figure is in the trillions. Unemployment is at 9.6 percent. Foreclosures caused 2.8 million Americans to lose their homes due to the banking debacle and is raising at 112 percent in 2010. Even more, Americans do not want additional taxes. And if you think the present situation can't get grimmer think for a moment about the future.

The mathematical literacy score of American youth is smack at the bottom of measured industrial nations. From Singapore to India to Iceland, other kids are academically destroying us. At least our youth measured slightly ahead of those in South Africa and Cyprus. Well, that is not exactly true; in "Advanced Math" the kids from Cyprus did better. So, where do we go from here?


How exactly is it that a card game might actually help these challenges?

1. Poker is a multi-billion dollar industry whose profits are not taxed in America. 
2. Poker has the potential, and the desire, to support philanthropic programs.
3. The knowledge needed to play poker could substantially help fill the black hole in our children's math education.

Tens of millions of Americans play poker. Many of them online. Presently, our government is not taxing either the businesses or the players. Do the math. If you thought "Wow, is that stupid" after you hit those calculations, you are probably brainy enough to be a good poker player. In fact, Joint Committee on Taxation found that regulating internet gaming would generate nearly $42 billion over the next 10 years.

Why has poker not yet been legislated? Some individuals have outspokenly objected to the idea of supporting online "gambling". The issue of gambling in America was conceded years ago when lottery tickets became available at every corner gas station. If you are playing the lottery, your odds of winning are about as good as a 65-year-old grandmother becoming the next Miss America. Additionally, multiple brick and mortar casinos across our county already offer live poker play. Saying it's okay to play poker in a casino but not at home is like saying you can go have a drink at a bar but it's illegal to have a glass of wine at your dinner table.

So, what is the status of poker? On April 15, 2011 (appropriately tax day) Federal authorities unsealed an indictment against the founders of online poker's three largest and most popular sites. In its rash poker raid the FBI also decided to leave several online sites untouched and operating.

In 2005 the World Trade Organization decided that the United States violated international agreements by prosecuting operators of offshore Internet gambling sites. The WTO rejected the U.S. argument that the restrictions were necessary to protect public morality. International communities which license Internet gambling contend that the U.S. crackdowns against foreign betting is illegal and protectionist, since gambling for money is permitted in U.S. for state-regulated betting in sports like horse racing.

Mark Mendel, the Caribbean government's legal advisor, told Reuters:

"I don't think there's another country in the world that puts people in jail for engaging in trade that's lawful under international law,"

The game of poker presents a unique challenge to our judicial department because laws related to "gambling" are extremely unlikely to hold up in any court when the dialogue turns to poker. Poker is not a game of chance.

Anyone who plays poker, or at least anyone who wins, knows that poker is a strategic game based on math and the ability to calculate statistical odds along with an aptitude to recognize patterns in an opponents play. There is less gambling in poker than in old fashioned Monopoly where the opportunities for money grubbing property accumulation are destined by the random role of dice.

Examine the arithmetic. Major poker tournaments start with fields of thousands of competitors. The average pro is easily up against over 100,000 competitors in any give year. Yet, according to Poker News, pros like Phil Hellmuth can claim not one but 11 WSOP bracelets, Johnny Chan and Doyle Brunson ten, Johnny Moss nine, Erik Seidel and Phil Ivey eight -- the issue of chance is statistically ludicrous.

Companies running online poker in the United States should be paying taxes, regulated and following legal gaming policies. This will happen seamlessly if someone would actually write the regulations. Legislators (those guys who can't balance a budget, but make sure their own salaries will be paid, even as they threaten to halt government services and employees paychecks) need to start thinking about economic responsibilities and educational opportunities. In an environment in which 36 states are insolvent, and there is already some form of legalized gambling in 42 states, legalization is inevitable.

In addition to the taxation and educational benefits, poker is a game of staggering opportunity when applied to philanthropy. There are tens of millions of players worldwide. A huge majority of them happily clustered together online in one forum, where you have the chance to ask for their support for different causes. And, this is a community willing, able and committed to doing just that. For example, Jamie Gold, referred to as the "Poker Philanthropist" has hosted charity events that have now raised over $100 million for nonprofit organizations.

Recently, my company was speaking with Full Tilt Poker about how to bring people from around the world together in an online tournament where the proceeds would benefit the victims of the Tsunami in Japan. A project now abandoned due to a recent indictment. In addition to hosting the tournament the site was developing a click and donate option for its players. Millions of people worldwide having the opportunity to support charity. Imagine that model in play every month for different programs from education to poverty to hunger to health care.

What kind of people are playing world class poker? Chris Ferguson, Ph.D. in computer science from UCLA, for one. On his first trip to the World Series of Poker, Mr. Ferguson's consistent and extraordinary skill led him to seven final tables. Gambling? Chance? I don't think so. Another player, Andrew Bloch, has three degrees: a law degree from Harvard and two degrees in engineering from M.I.T. Greg Raymer has a Masters in biochemistry, and a law degree, all according to Bill Gates, internationally recognized as a brilliant entrepreneur who built the world's most significant technology company, amassed a historic personal fortune and becoming one of greatest living philanthropists -- Poker player! Historically, poker has a very lofty following that includes: Andrew Jackson, Ulysses S. Grant, Warren Harding, Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, Barack Obama, and, okay, Richard Nixon.

While politicians have been pondering the future of poker, Harvard Law School professor Charles Nesson created the Global Poker Strategic Thinking Society (GPSTS), which uses poker as an educational tool. According to Mr. Nesson:

"Poker theories and situations can teach basic life skills, strategic thinking, geopolitical analysis, risk assessment, and money management."

Poker is actually a rare win-win for all parties in all situations. For Republicans who so often and so stridently speak out about Government not controlling the individual rights of our citizens, the idea of our federal administration telling people that they do not have the right to spend their own money, to play a game, from their homes, is horrifying. For the liberal Democrats who are looking for financial windfalls in taxable dollars, $42 billion is not a bad start. For the philanthropic community, these funds can make a profound difference. And, for all parties, the educational supplement for mathematics should not be glossed over or ignored.

The National Debt continues to increase an average of $4.08 billion per day. We all have much more important battles to wage then if we can play cards from our homes. And poker is a game we all lose if we don't get this right, and one where there is much to win if we play it correctly.

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