[SS] “I never liked to watch celebrity poker events back in the heyday of poker on television, but it’s definitely great for poker when famous personalities play our game. Last Celebrity Standing in the World Series of Poker Main Event is like Last Woman Standing with a smaller and lower-skilled set of players. Having a celebrity win the Main Event or at least reach the November Nine, is about the only thing that could increase poker’s popularity more than having a woman do it.”
[RR] “How about a female celebrity?”
[SS] “That could work double. Anyway, since 2005…”
Last Celebrity Standing at the WSOP Main Event
|2005||Nick Cassavetes1||93||$77,710||actor and director did very well for his first tournament|
|2006||Rick Salomon||196||$42,882||ex-husband of Pamela Anderson and Shannen Doherty won an impressive $2,800,000 in the 2014 WSOP Big One for One Drop ($1,000,000 buyin); Sully Erna also cashed|
|2007||Sully Erna||237||$45,422||lead singer of rock band Godsmack lost with quad aces to a runner-runner royal flush2|
|2008||Kara Scott||104||$41,816||poker commentator previously hosted martial arts and backgammon shows in Canada and the U.K.3|
|2009||Lou Diamond Phillips||186||$36,626||actor busted out with pocket Kings against two opponents with pocket Aces|
|2010||Bruce Buffer||478||$27,519||ring announcer busted out when his pocket Queens lost to Ace-King on a river King; Vince Van Patten also cashed|
|2011||Mars Callahan||94||$64,531||actor and director of “Poolhall Junkies” was doing research for a “Poker Junkies” movie; Sam Simon was in 24th after 2 days and finished 500th for $23,876|
|2012||Kevin Pollak||134||$52,718||actor reached Day 5 but busted with Q♦Q♣ vs. Q♠Q♥ when his opponent hit a heart flush|
|2013||Ray Romano||$0||actor reached Day 3 for a personal best but has yet to cash in eight tries|
|2014||Paul Pierce||$0||NBA player reached Day 3 and finished around 800th out of 6,683 players|
|20154||Fatima Moreira de Melo||286||$34,157||The Dutch field hockey player lasted quite a bit longer than Australian cricket player Shane Warne, who finished 597th for $17,282.|
|20164||John Arne Riise||$0||The retired Norwegian soccer player reached Day 3, lasting just a little longer than actor Ray Romano.|
|20174||Richard Seymour||$0||The former New England Patriot lasted until Day 3, when he ran King-Queen suited into a pair of Aces.|
- Top celebrity finishers from 1970 to 2004 include Gabe Kaplan (6th place bubble boy in 1980, 21st place in 1986 and 13th place in 1991 for min-cashes), Telly Savalas (21st place in 1992 for a min-cash), and Hal Kant (26th place in 1995 and 24th place in 1996 for min-cashes and 21st place in 1999 for $27,950 for the Grateful Dead’s lawyer).
- Percentage-wise, Callahan’s finish was the best (top 1.37%), ahead of Scott (1.52%) and Cassavetes (1.66%). All the in-the-money finishes since 2005 except Buffer’s were better than all the finishes before 2005.
- Pierce became by far the most famous American athlete to make a deep run.5
[SS] “Acting has probably been the most common profession of poker celebrities in the WSOP Main Event, possibly because Hollywood is within driving distance of Las Vegas. Among the actors and actresses to contribute their $10,000 buyins to the tournament have been Aaron Paul, Alexia Portal, Anthony Rapp, Ben Affleck, Brad Garrett, David Alan Grier, Dean Cain, Ed Norton, Hank Azaria, James Garner, James Woods, Janet Jones, Jason Alexander, Jennifer Tilly, Matt Damon, Norm Macdonald, and Shannon Elizabeth.
A few of these actors have had poker success outside of the WSOP Main Event: Affleck won the 2004 California State Poker Championship for $356,400. Tilly won the 2005 WSOP Ladies Championship for $158,335. And Elizabeth placed 3rd in the 2007 NBC National Heads-Up Championship for $125,000 and 2nd in the 2010 Ante Up For Africa Charity Event for $79,776.
Athletes, male athletes at least, have also been well-represented: baseball players David Wells, Jose Canseco, and Orel Hershiser (5th place in the 2008 NBC National Heads-Up Poker Championship for $75,000); basketball players Charles Barkley, Earl Barron (5 WSOP cashes but none in the Main Event), John Salley, and Jordan Farmar; boxers Antonio Tarver, Audley Harrison, and Lennox Lewis; football players Emmitt Smith and Richard Seymour; hockey players Brad May and Robert Luongo (who placed 634th for $19,227 in 2012); and martial artists Chuck Liddell, Forrest Griffin, Georges St. Pierre, and Martin Kampmann.”
- On the flip side, actor Tobey Maguire busted out on the very first hand of Day 1A when his full house lost to a bigger full house.
- Erna immediately commemorated his bad beat by getting a tattoo with the phrase “No Justice in Poker”.
- Scott left her job with Sky Poker and officially became a poker pro one month after this cash.
- July 15, 2015 update: added 2015’s Last Celebrity Standing. Patrick Bruel did even better, but he no longer counts as he’s a professional poker player. March 7, 2017 update: added 2016. July 17, 2017 update: added 2017.
- Not that we’ve forgotten Gabe Kaplan’s moment of athletic fame on the Battle of the Network Stars (nine and a half minute video). By coincidence, Telly Savalas was also one of the three team captains.