We know them as famous faces from the silver screen, although away from their day jobs bringing different characters to life in movies and TV shows, many actors and actresses have a favourite hobby. For some of them, playing poker has even become much more than just something to enjoy in their spare time.
Celeb news and gossip site TMZ recently published images of Ben Affleck turning up at a Hollywood casino, shortly after leaving a Halloween party where he’d obviously enjoyed quite a few drinks. Despite being somewhat the worse for wear and barely able to sit straight at the poker table, the 47-year-old actor still managed to stagger away with $1500 in winnings, working the game for just 12 minutes after dropping $20,000 in chips on the table.
Later admitting that he’s a recovering alcoholic who had slipped off the wagon on that occasion, Affleck still managed to show that he’s an accomplished poker player. As a keen student of the game and having learned from some of the best players around, before his recent turn as Batman in the DC movie franchise, Affleck actually won the 2004 California State Poker Championship, walking away from that tournament with $356,400 in winnings.
While his portrayal of Batman didn’t bring many glowing reviews from the movie critics, at least Affleck has shown that he maintains a strong flair for poker. That said, pro poker tour player Tobias Reinkemeier believes there’s another former Batman who would make a formidable opponent at the table.
Having won some of the most lucrative tournaments in the world, when asked to name potential talented celeb poker players who might enjoy success at the table, Reinkemeier had just one name in mind. He chose British actor Christian Bale, highlighting that his level of “dedication and hard work” would translate well to poker, simply because of method acting approach to getting into the skin of characters he plays.
Speaking of other actors who have donned the superhero spandex for some of their most famous roles, it’s quite possible that Tobey Maguire could well be one of the most successful poker players of all time. At the peak of his stardom and while playing Peter Parker in the Spiderman trilogy, he was also reportedly cashing in millions at high-stakes poker games around Hollywood.
During a period of three to four years, Maguire was apparently amongst a group of high-rollers at illicit “invitation only” poker games, which were reportedly taking place at some of the most luxurious hotels around Los Angeles. While there were a host of other A-list Hollywood celebrities regularly participating at these games, none are said to have enjoyed anywhere near the winning success of Maguire.
Although these underground poker games weren’t strictly legal, when reports came to light amongst a variety of media outlets including Huffington Post, they claimed that Maguire was regularly taking winnings of around $1 million each month. Stack that up over a period of three to four years, it’s estimated that he scooped somewhere between $30 and $40 million from these poker games.
While there were subsequent legal investigations, there was little chance the State of California would actually prosecute the celebrity players involved. Nevertheless, Maguire did face some legal challenges for part of the money he’d won, because amongst those he’d allegedly beaten at the poker table, some were bankers and lawyers, who had used “improperly-diverted” investor funds to fuel their own participation.
Just have a glance through the IMDB role archive for Jennifer Tilly, it’s easy to see that she’s enjoyed a great movie and TV career, consistently working since the early 1980’s and still in demand for a variety of different roles. Aside from critical acclaim and various awards, she’s also carved out a niche for herself in the horror genre, appearing in the popular Child’s Play franchise of movies, after they were rebooted in 1998 with Bride of Chucky.
Even if she hadn’t become a famous actress, it seems that Jennifer was always destined for fame and celebrity, thanks to her success at the poker tables. Apparently, her interest in the cards began with a World Series of Poker (WSOP) video game she played and enjoyed, bought by her father. From there, the passion for poker grew and became a favourite pastime, whenever she had the chance to play between acting jobs.
Jennifer has also proven that more than just being a hobby, poker can also become a professional vocation, providing you have talent and the dedication to keep improving your game. She was awarded the WSOP bracelet in 2005 after winning the Ladies’ No Limit Hold’em tournament back in 2005, whilst also collecting the $158,335 prize. Although she decided to “retire” from professional poker in 2008, the hobby has again become a vocation since 2010.
Of course, being surrounded by fellow poker afficionados will always help. Tilly was married to The Simpsons co-creator Sam Simon between 1984 and 1991, who was also very fond of casino gaming and poker in particular. Since 2004 she has been in a long-term relationship with Phil Laak, an internationally renowned poker star from Dublin, Ireland, who has enjoyed great success on the World Poker Tour over the years.
Such is the thrill and excitement of playing poker, it’s hardly surprising that so many famous celebrities have tried their hand at the tables. Some have even ended up earning more from what started out as a hobby, than they’re paid for their acting roles. For sure, it helps to have a nice pot of cash available to play with, although there’s always plenty of lesser-known players ready to take it off them too!