What do Ben Affleck, Nicole Kidman, Sarah Jessica Parker, Matt Damon, Tobey Maguire, Norm McDonald, Teddy Sheringham, Don Cheadle, Sir Clive Sinclair, Yevgeny Kafelnikov, Coolio, Robbie Williams, Ricky Gervais, Brad Pitt, Martin Sheen, Paul Ince, Harrison Ford, Johnny Vegas, Mena Suvari, Stephen Fry, David Schwimmer, Charles Saatchi, Jennifer Aniston, Carrie Fisher, James Woods, Dennis Rodman, Vinnie Jones, and Matthew Perry all have in common?
Well, theyre all celebrities who are either poker fans or players (or both, more often than not). Furthermore, this sample of famous faces represents only a small portion of the television and film actors, pro athletes, and other recognizable stars that are gravitating towards the game and perpetuating its popularity through their participation.
The game of poker and especially its online variety have become immensely popular in the United States and the craze is spreading to Europe as well. The image of the activity has evolved from a macho, back-room, saloon practice into a game which nearly everyone can play, watch, and appreciate. The increase in popularity is illustrated by the increasing numbers of celebrities who are participating and doing so publicly. This star participation, in turn, is also contributing to pokers rising appeal and public attachment.
Indeed, one only needs to turn on ESPN, the Travel Channel, or the Bravo network to see and hear celebrities contemplating the same moves, hands, and bets that professionals and amateurs encounter online or in live casinos. Shows like Celebrity Poker Showdown, Celebrity Poker Club, Ultimate Poker Showdown, and World Poker Tour are bringing the game into the home through television and increasing its awareness overall. Celebrities are not only seen on such shows, but are also made in the sense that professionals are now being watched and cheered for by people tuning in all over the country.
Celebrity participation in the sport though is not only limited to television and the recent rise in popularity of shows specifically designed for stars. Outside of his role in Oceans 11 & 12, which also dealt with the Vegas scene, George Clooney is said to host regular poker nights at his home in Los Angeles. And Clooney is not alone. Friends stars David Schwimmer and Jennifer Aniston also hold similar events in their homes much like thousands of Americans across the country. Ben Affleck is a regular participant in tournaments and actually won the California State Poker Championship in 2004 taking home $356,400 (although some people believe it was this attraction and love of the game that ultimately doomed his relationship with Jennifer Lopez! Who knows?).
As Poker increases in popularity and becomes more and more accepted and played by all types of people, celebrity participation, as well as the accessibility provided by online casinos, will increase and attract even more new players. The merging of these two relatively new aspects of the game is already seen in the rise of internet sites offering players the ability to play No Limit Holdem with celebrities online! Indeed, with greater celebrity participation raising the games profile and online pokers attractiveness as a non-threatening way of introducing oneself to the sport, poker will only continue its recent rise in popularity and acceptance and create greater interest and curiosity among the public.