Poker has always been a popular game, but interest has grown exponentially in the digital world. The availability of real money online poker, together with live broadcasts of major tournaments, has introduced a whole new fanbase.
Anyone can get involved with the game, but the nature of poker means that many celebrity players have taken to the tables. It’s an environment where you put your math & psychology skills to test – against the very best poker players if you play high stakes. And for wealthy people, bankroll management isn’t usually an issue – it’s more a question about whether you enjoy the challenge & the thrill.
But how did poker become so popular that even celebs got hooked into it?
What Were The Early Years Of Poker Like
The game originated in America in the early 19th century. It gained notoriety over the years thanks to its portrayal in old Western movies and films such as the James Bond series.
The advent of online casinos from the mid-1990s provided a huge boost to the game from that point. In more recent years, the biggest development came in 2018, when the US Supreme Court relaxed laws relating to sports betting and online casino play.
From 2018 onwards, revenue has grown substantially with online casinos available in Florida and all around the United States. In the physical world, celebrities are drawn to poker because of the high stakes and exposure via TV channels. So who, exactly, is getting involved?
Betting On The Flop in Live Poker
Unfortunately for golf fans, the great Tiger Woods has had to endure long periods of downtime in recent years. A catalog of injuries has restricted his appearances on the course, but golf’s loss has been poker’s gain.
Tiger has developed an interest in poker to the point where he now hosts his own tournaments. This, however, is a twist on gameplay with Tiger Jam combining the best elements of his two favorite sports.
Woods has also hosted a poker night in association with the World Poker Tour. It’s an event where high stakes are on the table, but charity is the main beneficiary. While he may not be the most successful celebrity at the poker table, Tiger Woods is certainly one of the most enthusiastic.
Actor and director Ben Affleck is another celebrity who has been involved in both amateur and professional poker tournaments. He’s competed in the official World Series of Poker competitions, while his biggest win came in 2004, when he scooped a cool £356,400 GBP at the California State Poker Championship.
Affleck is also alleged to be one of the prime celebrity players featured in the 2017 Film Molly’s Game. The movie tells the story of Molly Bloom, a former athlete who found herself attracting the attention of the FBI after running a high-profile poker ring. Although no celebrities are mentioned by name, it’s almost certain that Ben Affleck is one of the central characters.
Renowned voice actor, famous for her role in Family Guy, Jennifer Tilly is a serious force at the poker table. She has claimed several high profile tournament wins, claiming a WSOP bracelet in 2005, along with success in the Bellagio Cup and a Ladies Night Invitational.
As an interesting aside, Tilly is also the only person to have received a World Series of Poker Bracelet and an Oscar nomination.
Of the many sports personalities to have tested their skills at the poker table, Gerard Pique is a man with huge playing potential. After a long career in Europe with Manchester United and Barcelona, the defender retired in 2022, despite rumors that he may finish his career in Major League Soccer in America.
Pique’s next move after retirement is unclear, but he could certainly have a future at the card tables. It’s said that he learned poker by playing with teammates at Manchester United, before taking part in WSOP tournaments. Earnings of $275,000 are not the most spectacular, but there is time for improvement now that Gerard Pique has hung up his soccer boots.
She’s not globally well known as a celebrity, but Victoria Coren-Mitchell has to be included as one of the most successful on the poker tables. The English writer and broadcaster regularly hosts panel shows in the UK and is a familiar face to British viewers.
Her poker career began in the mid-2000s and, as of 2023, it’s shown that she has achieved more than $2.5 million in earnings from the table. Coren-Mitchell also achieved a number of significant landmarks for female players.
She was the first woman to win an event on the European Tour and the first to win a televised celebrity tournament. While her hosting may be limited to friendly games, there’s no doubt that Victoria Coren-Mitchell is one of the best celebrity poker players around.
While celebrities are drawn to the poker tables for many reasons, their participation shows that the game is open to anyone. They may have more downtime to practice their poker skills, but they also prove that dedication can bring its rewards.
More celebrities will take up poker in the future, while those that are mentioned here will continue to be involved, as they deliver added interest in the game worldwide.