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Celebrity Poker Showdown

10 August 2004

Think it might be easy money sitting across the table from Ben Affleck, or Leonardo DiCaprio, or any of the celebs taking part in "Celebrity Poker Showdown," airing on Bravo?

Think again.

Phil Gordon, the two-time World Poker tour champion who serves as co-host and expert commentator on "Celebrity Poker Showdown," says he really likes Affleck's game and that DiCaprio has been playing often and working hard.

"They're not championship-caliber players," Gordon told poker players assembled last week at Hollywood Casino in Aurora. "But they're not players you want to see at your table, unless you want to play with celebrities who have a lot of money.

"Maybe you do. Come to think of it, you probably do want them at your table."

Of course, the celebs aren't all good players. Not naming names, Gordon said, "One went all in on the first hand. He didn't have much of anything. And afterward, he couldn't figure out what he did wrong."

Gordon was in town not just to talk up "Celebrity Poker Showdown" and offer a little extra commentary as guests at Hollywood watched the competition that aired that night. He was also in to promote a line of home gaming products marketed by the Naperville-based Imagine It Poker Concepts Marketing Group (www.celebritypokerchips.com). Some guests received nice, heavy, metallic-look cases with poker chips, dice and a couple of decks of "Celebrity Poker" cards.

And while he was at it, Gordon dropped in a plug for the fund-raising work he and fellow poker pro Rafe Furst are doing for the Cancer Research and Prevention Foundation (www.preventcancer .org/usa).

But mostly, he talked poker, speaking to the whole group and breaking off for smaller chats.

Taking questions from the full group, Gordon was asked what he would do if he could see the cards of another player.

"I'll warn him once," said Gordon, whose own Web site is www.pgordon.com. "I'll tell him, 'Hey, you're showing your cards, protect your hand.' After that, I'll bust him. Until I change tables. Then I'll have a word with the floor manager. I don't want someone else to have an edge."

I later mentioned that with the influence of the Travel Channel's telecasts of the World Poker Tour, along with the growing popularity of Internet poker, crowds seem to be getting younger in poker rooms. That's an incentive for casinos - always looking to attract younger players - to add or expand card rooms, even though it remains more profitable to use space for slot machines. Gordon added another factor in attracting young players - "Celebrity Poker Showdown."

"You can't underestimate the effect of seeing a Ben Affleck and what he does at the poker table," Gordon said. "People want to ride the wave with a big celebrity."

And people are riding the poker wave. At this year's World Series of Poker, a record 2,576 players entered the final event, the No-Limit Texas Hold'Em championship. There was a limit of 2,400 players, but additional entries were logged on an alternates list and permitted to play as the first players busted out.

Most of the entrants really had no chance to win. But there's always the example of Chris Moneymaker, who parlayed a $40 Internet entry into the $10,000 he needed to enter the 2003 World Series, and turned that into a $2.5 million bonanza for winning the No-Limit Hold'Em championship. That keeps up hopes for even inexperienced players whose primary poker background is online.

"Even though they have no chance to win, they get enough entertainment value out of the experience that it's worth it," Gordon said. "They get to play in the World Series of Poker. I saw a man who was there with his 23-year-old son. He told me, 'I just want to thank you for helping me find something my son and I can do together.' Then he put down $20,000 as the entry fee for himself and his son."

In the marquee event at the World Series of Poker, on the World Poker Tour and in the "Celebrity Poker Showdown," the game is no-limit Texas Hold'Em. And Texas Hold'Em is the game of choice among players who are drawn to the card rooms, with seven-card stud and Omaha having smaller followings. But most card-room players will play games with betting limits.

"Players can learn a lot from limit poker," Gordon said. "They can learn a lot about position. I recommend to casinos when they're opening a card room that they not spread a no-limit game at first. The Palms [in Las Vegas] just opened a no-limit room. It's right next to the original room, so now they have two card rooms. They started the no-limit room with a $200 buy-in, and I think now it's $500."

For himself, Gordon sticks to no-limit play.

"Limit poker is boring," said the man used to playing in big-money tournaments. "I probably only play 10 hours a year of limit poker. I played two here, so I have eight hours left."

One fellow pointed out that Gordon had taken some money from him in those two hours.

"I'll buy you a drink," Gordon said. "Really, it'll be you buying yourself a drink."

Recent Articles
Best of John Grochowski
John Grochowski

John Grochowski is the best-selling author of The Craps Answer Book, The Slot Machine Answer Book and The Video Poker Answer Book. His weekly column is syndicated to newspapers and Web sites, and he contributes to many of the major magazines and newspapers in the gaming field, including Midwest Gaming and Travel, Slot Manager, Casino Journal, Strictly Slots and Casino Player.

Listen to John Grochowski's "Casino Answer Man" tips Tuesday through Friday at 5:18 p.m. on WLS-AM (890) in Chicago. Look for John Grochowski on Facebook and Twitter @GrochowskiJ.

John Grochowski Websites:

www.casinoanswerman.com

Books by John Grochowski:

> More Books By John Grochowski

John Grochowski
John Grochowski is the best-selling author of The Craps Answer Book, The Slot Machine Answer Book and The Video Poker Answer Book. His weekly column is syndicated to newspapers and Web sites, and he contributes to many of the major magazines and newspapers in the gaming field, including Midwest Gaming and Travel, Slot Manager, Casino Journal, Strictly Slots and Casino Player.

Listen to John Grochowski's "Casino Answer Man" tips Tuesday through Friday at 5:18 p.m. on WLS-AM (890) in Chicago. Look for John Grochowski on Facebook and Twitter @GrochowskiJ.

John Grochowski Websites:

www.casinoanswerman.com

Books by John Grochowski:

The Craps Answer Book

> More Books By John Grochowski