Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Pros (and celebrities) I’ve whipped at poker

OK, so I didn't exactly whip all of these celebrity types. In fact, some may have whipped me. In most cases I hardly played a hand I had against them, but I did play them, sometimes resulting in great stories.

Watching a "Curb Your Enthusiasm" rerun recently and seeing Richard Kind guest starring reminded me that I had intended to post a Top 10 list of notables I've played against in my years in poker. Kind also played an online poker pro in the mockumentary “The Grand.”

I can’t remember if he was supposed to be Canadian or from somewhere near the border. I’ve played against plenty of Canadians online and off, but no one from north of the border is on this list.

Some of these are celebrities from entertainment while others are well-known poker players. I rank them based on what I would perceive their Q ratings to be among the general public. With no further ado here is my Top 10:

10. Dewey Tomko – I played against the former Kindergarten teacher in my first WSOP event, a $1,000 NLHE affair in 2004 with a star-studded table. (Remember, with the small fields a decade ago stacked tables were pretty common.) I don’t think we played any significant hands against each other.

9. Amir Vahedi – I tangled with the gregarious Iranian in that same 2004 WSOP tournament. One hand is recalled in detail in one of my first Poker Nation blog posts. I was also fortunate to be perhaps the last writer to interview Vahedi before his untimely death.

8. Jeff Madsen – I played against wunderkind Madsen the same year of his breakout, when he won two bracelets in 2006 at age 21. It was in a $1,500 NLHE bracelet event they ran concurrently with the main event for people who had busted out. It was, I believe, the only year the brass at Harrah’s decided to do that.

7. Mike Caro – I tangled with the “Mad Genius of Poker” briefly on Day 2 of the 2006 WSOP Main Event, though tangled is a strong word. Caro was moved to our table and took a bad beat to go out within the hour. Pretty sure I never played a hand against him.

6. Patrik Antonius – Ironically, of all the players on this list, Antonius is probably both the best and the own I most owned at the table. That’s the nature of run good. Read my post on Day 1 of my 2006 WSOP Main Event run for more details – it never hurts to flop quads and turn a set, I’ll tell you what!

5. Phil Hellmuth – The Poker Brat tops my list of poker players on my celebrity list. The fact that he is merely fifth shows how I figure the general Q rating of poker players is -- pretty low. But what an experience to play the 10-time bracelet winner in my first major tournament experience. This was the previously mentioned $1,000 NLHE with rebuys event at the 2004 WSOP, the last one held completely at Binion's Horseshoe.

4. William Hung – Here's a guy whose 15 minutes of fame stretched a little more along the clock face. He parlayed his horrid rendition of "She Bangs" on "American Idol" into two albums in which he butchered classic songs and Christmas tunes. Nice kid, though. I ran into him at the World Poker Challenge at the Reno Hilton in March 2006 -- the same placed I tangled with Shamrock. I was sitting down to play cash games one night when I heard Hung was at the $2-$4 LHE game so I decided to sit down. The recounting of what transpired is located here.

3. Ken Shamrock – One of the early UFC fighters, Shamrock was a sweetheart at the poker table, very gracious and almost bookish in his eyeglasses if not the bulging muscles hanging out of his sleeveless shirt. I played him in a $10-$20 LHE game in Reno, a day after meeting Hung.

2. Richard Kind – Kind is a guy whose face you recognize but the name draws a blank. He most famously played Paul Lasiter on "Spin City" for several years opposite Michael J. Fox and Charlie Sheen. I played $1-$2 NLHE with Kind at the Las Vegas Golden Nugget in 2007 when he was there filming "The Grand". Some other stars of the film darkened the doors of the poker room, I am told, but the only other one I saw was Jason Alexander. Unfortunately, I could not get a seat at his table or he would be tops on this list.

1. Jennifer Tilly – I will rate Tilly as #1 on my Q list just barely. She's been in enough movies and has such a distinctive voice that I think she is fairly well known. I played with Tilly at the same $1,500 bracelet event in which I played Madsen. Since I had just won $16,500 I figured I would take a shot at this one. Tilly sat to my right. Interestingly enough, she was missing a yellow 1,000 chip from the bottom of her stack when she sat down. I can't say I was too impressed with her play. I saw her call down in obvious folding situations to lose much of her stack. I think she still had chips when our table broke and I was sent off to get my A-K cracked by A-J.

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