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Top-10 celebrities I'd like to invite to my home poker game

19 September 2011

By Aaron Todd

There’s been a lot of buzz about celebrities playing poker in recent weeks, with the much ballyhooed “home game” that brought some of Hollywood’s biggest names together for some high stakes action.

In talks around the office, we’ve thrown around the idea of starting a regular “Casino City Home Game” series, whereby we’d invite celebrities to play in my regular home poker game. The idea would be to learn how these celebrities became poker players, what types of games they play regularly, and what role poker plays in their lives.

While we have yet to land our first celebrity, we’ve had a couple of close calls with people saying they’d play, but circumstances beyond our control have thus far kept the idea from coming to fruition. So while we continue to work on getting our first A, B, C or D-list celebrity player, I thought I’d put together a top-10 list of the players I’d like to get to come to our game. If see your name listed below, are going to be in the Boston area and are interested in joining us, feel free to contact me at aarontodd@casinocity.com. And even if you aren’t listed and have achieved a small measure of fame, send me an e-mail and we’ll see if we can get you into the game!

Oh, and before I start my top-10, just a quick note on why Tobey Maguire, who was sued by Ponzi schemer Bradley Ruderman for losses suffered to Maguire in the aforementioned poker game, is not on this list. Members of the media who covered the World Series of Poker when Maguire played knows just how much he abhors the poker spotlight. He was kind of a jerk about it, dodging photographers and demanding that they not use his image (which he has no right to do – he signed a waiver to play in the tournament), etc. And jerks aren’t invited to our home game, radioactive superpowers or not.

10. Fred Savage
I grew up watching The Wonder Years, and Kevin Arnold, the character played by Savage, seemed to embody the feelings just about every teenager goes through, whether it be in the early ’90s or late ’60s. Poker actually plays a prominent role in the series, with Arnold and his friends playing in a weekly home game. So you can imagine how excited I was when Savage appeared on the World Poker Tour’s Hollywood Home Game episode. But after watching this clip, I think we may have to handle all the dealing duties.


WPT Hollywood Home Game I Pt08 by msop9209

9. Paul Pierce
A local favorite for those of us living in the Boston area to be sure, the Celtics all-star showed up at this year’s World Series of Poker Main Event and did pretty well for an amateur. While he didn’t make the money, he did go deep into Day 2. And by all accounts, he was a friendly, engaging table mate who knew what he was doing. While he may have earned the nickname “The Truth” on the basketball court, I have a feeling you shouldn’t believe everything he says at the poker table.

8. Denis Leary and Lenny Clarke
Okay, I know this is two people, but let’s be honest, these two do some of their best work together. This is another local pick, with the duo being from Boston and spending a decent amount of time here, so it’s at least possible. While I struggled to find evidence, I believe I have heard Clarke on Boston sports radio promoting charity poker tournaments. And at the very least, Clarke had a bit role in Rounders, and it would be great to hear his take on the movie. Oh, and if you need proof that these two do their best work together, watch this footage from a Red Sox game on NESN from 2006.



7. Matt Damon
Not only did Damon play the lead in Rounders, easily the best movie ever made about poker, he’s also a recreational player, competing in the World Series of Poker’s Main Event on at least one occasion, and a regular in charity events, as well. And with Boston roots, perhaps I could convince Damon to swing by my basement game and watch the Red Sox game with us. Something tells me that it wouldn’t be a hard sell to convince my wife to let me host the game that week.

6. Sarah Silverman
While women aren’t discouraged from playing in our home game, the game is a chance for those of us who are married with kids (most are married, and more than half either have kids or are expecting) to spend a night away from home and do some male bonding. And let’s face it, Silverman is more raunchy than most men. But at the same time, I can’t imagine people in our game complaining if she ended up lying on top of the poker table. And if this video is any indication, she might just be able to convince number seven on the list to come to the game, too.

5. Rose Ballenger
Another brash, confident woman, Rose Ballenger (aka Balls) from The Micros would be a great fit for our home game. Okay, she’s a fictional character, but there’s no doubt we’d love to have her. A crazy aggressive player, Rose would ensure we’d have our swingiest home game of all time, with $300 pots being the norm in our $.25/$.50 blind game. The prop bets alone (e.g., Ironman Triskaidekathlon with the only hydration allowance being as many Ecto Coolers as you can carry) would be massive. While we’re not sure whose wallet would end up fat at the end of the night, it’d be one helluva ride. And no webisode demonstrates this better than the second in the series.



4. Alex Rodriguez
A-Rod was one of the players who participated in the high stakes home games that have recently been in the news. And his participation drew the ire of Major League Baseball officials, who are worried that something untoward could taint the reputation of one of their biggest stars, and therefore hurt the game. But the truth is that poker, when played within one’s means, cannot do damage to the game the same way that sports betting can. And if A-Rod loses $100,000 in a poker game, let’s be honest, that’s less than he makes in one game. I don’t think we’re in danger of seeing him throw a game because of mounting poker losses. And if he plays in our $20 buy-in game, there’s certainly no danger of that. So A-Rod, next time you’re in Beantown early for a Red Sox series, my door is always open.

3. Brad Garrett
Garrett is a regular player in charity, celebrity and open events. The Everybody Love Raymond star seems to sometimes get bored after awhile, though, which would be great for the players in our game, as he would move in with almost anything – or even blind, which he’s done in several WSOP events. And of course, he would always be entertaining at the table.



2. Barack Obama
There’s been quite a bit of talk since President Obama’s first campaign for the presidency that he’s been known to be a good poker player. I’d like to put the leader of the free world to the test. I will admit, however, that it would be a little intimidating to play poker against a guy with a dozen Secret Service agents standing on watch for him.

1. The Pope
I grew up Catholic, and I think my grandmother would be smiling down on me if the Pope graced us with his presence at our home game. Plus, who wouldn’t want to be at the table to see what happened if, in the late stages of a tournament and needing to catch one of two outs to win, the Pope sought divine intervention by looking up and saying, “Come on, one time!”
Aaron Todd

Home-game hotshot Aaron Todd has covered the gambling industry since 2006. While he is happy to play Texas Hold'em, he'd rather mix it up and play Omaha Hi/Lo, Razz, Deuce-to-Seven Triple Draw, and (his personal favorite) Badeuci.

Since graduating from St. Lawrence University, Aaron has worked as a journalist covering the gambling industry and as a communications specialist in college athletic departments.

A native of a small town in New York just south of Ottawa, Aaron lives in Needham, Mass., with his wife and three children. Write to Aaron at aarontodd@casinocity.com, and follow him on Twitter @CasinoCity_AT.