Poker has attracted over 60 million regular players worldwide. With a history spanning generations and gameplay that offers glitz, excitement, and a chance at a significant profit, it’s no surprise that Hollywood celebrities are active in the poker scene. But while celebrity poker fans like Jay-Z, Nelly, and Scott Ian are capable of playing a great hand, only a number of stars have made it all the way to Poker’s most prestigious tournament—the World Series of Poker.
What is the World Series of Poker?
Held annually in Las Vegas since 2004, the World Series of Poker (WSOP) dates back to the 1970s. This fall, the 2021 WSOP tournament resumed after two years due to health restrictions. Lasting from September 30th to November 23rd, the WSOP main event is the $10,000 buy-in Main Event. Although thousands of players participate each year and competition is fierce, several celebrities have been known to best top poker pros.
Here are some of the most notable ones who participated—and even won—the WSOP:
1. James Woods
Actor and director James Woods is known for his distinctive voice and acting chops. But behind his Hollywood endeavors, Woods is also known as a passionate poker player. Since 2004, he regularly traveled the United States to participate in tournaments. He’s had 21 money finishes at the WSOP, where he’s earned almost $130,000. Aside from this, Woods is also a known player at the World Poker Tour circuit. Here he’s had three cash finishes, which total to over $51,000.
2. Jennifer Tilly
Jennifer Tilly is known for her comedic femme fatale roles. But the actress, who was seen cast in Chucky and Liar Liar, is also an accomplished poker player. Back in 2005, Tilly won the WSOP Ladies No-Limit Hold‘em event. Since then, she has made several other pro poker appearances and has even won a WSOP bracelet. Tilly credits her acting skills, which help her hide her tells, her looks, which she uses to distract others, and her partner, professional poker player Phil Laak who trains her. To date, Tilly’s winnings in live poker events total $1 million.
3. Tobey Maguire
In Hollywood, Tobey Maguire has built a career playing mostly likable boy-next-door characters. However, as a poker player, he’s known to be far more calculating. Maguire has been a fixture in poker tournaments since 2004, including the WSOP. In these events, he’s made several money finishes which total to winnings of about $51,000. Although pretty modest in comparison to other professional poker winners, Maguire may be one of the most lucrative players ever. Maguire was involved in a poker circle where he allegedly walked away with millions. The events of this notorious private celebrity poker club are depicted in the Academy Award-nominated film Molly’s Game.
4. Sam Simon
The co-creator of The Simpsons wasn’t just a talented showrunner. Before his passing in 2015, Simon was known by friends and other poker aficionados as a great card player. After learning the game from his grandfather, Simon went on to host his own poker nights as an adult. Eventually, his consistent practice honed his skills enough that he made a number of successful WSOP appearances. His total WSOP lifetime winnings amounted to over $144,000, which was a welcome addition to his television earnings.
Making it to any high-stakes poker tournament is impressive, and the fact that these celebrities were able to do so despite their busy schedules is another feat in itself. Although none of them are making poker icons like Phil Ivey or Daniel Negreanu want to fold, celebrity poker players add another layer of talent and stardom to the world of professional poker tournaments.