During the early noughties, the internet .com boom was in full flow. With the internet came many options that gave consumers a new way to shop and a new way to play virtually.
Soon enough, online gaming sites and casinos were popping up, but so was another source of online entertainment – online poker rooms. Generally reserved to private rooms in land-based establishments, online poker sites allowed players to play anytime and anywhere. The earliest poker sites included 888 Poker and Pacific Poker – and soon enough, plenty of aficionados were calling themselves “poker pros”.
Playing online poker became huge, and large stakes became involved. So, which celebrities joined and became some of the biggest and best players? We spoke to the editorial team at AllGamblingSites who were there first hand when everything started, to find out who they think are arguably the best and most well-known celebrity poker players of all time:
Probably renowned for his excessive and somewhat contentious lifestyle thanks to his successful poker wins and trust funds from his father, Tampa-born Dan Bilzerian soon became one of the first poker Influencers. Millions started to follow Dan’s life via social media and watched his games online. Soon, his controversial lifestyle overshadowed his poker career when his antics got somewhat out of control; Bilzerian was on a ski trip with some of his ‘fraternity bros’ when he suffered two heart attacks, which he later blamed on a drug and alcohol-fuelled bender.
Just one look at his Instagram profile, and it’s easy to see he likes to shock, show off and indulge. Today, although online poker has been on a downward trend, Dan remains a professional poker player, internet personality, and entrepreneur.
Molly Bloom is the female poker player on which the 2018 film “Molly’s Game” is based. US-born Molly Bloom was charged with running high-stakes poker games in the infamous Viper Room in Los Angeles. Her underground games attracted many wealthy people who all wanted “in” to her exclusive games -including a string of Hollywood celebrities. In May 2014, she was sentenced to one year of probation, a $200,000 fine, and 200 hours of community service for the illegal games. In 2014, she released a memoir of those days, and today, Molly’s Game, starring Jessica Chastain and Kevin Costner, remains a favourite for many poker players and gamblers.
You may remember the US actress more for her performances as Nadia, the exchange student in the American Pie trilogy; however, Shannon is also a well-known professional poker player on the circuit. In 2006, Shannon admitted her love for the game of poker, describing poker as “her second career choice”. During the past two decades, she has frequently visited Sin City, arguably the best place to play and be seen playing land poker games. Notable wins for Shannon include coming second place in the NBC Heads-Up Poker Championship in 2007. This result plus other tournament poker cash proved her credentials as a top female player.
Starring in what is considered one of the best gambling movies of all time – Rounders (1998), Matt Damon is also a good player in real life. While Matt prefers to play poker behind the scenes and away from the public gaze, he regularly appears at The World Series of Poker in Las Vegas. Fun fact: He was also a cash game participant of the infamous “Molly’s Game” mentioned above!
Comedian Kevin Hart completes our top 5 famous poker players list. When he’s not making movies or on the stand-up circuit, he likes to gamble it up and has played in some colossal poker games over the years. A testament to how good he is? Both PokerStars and PartyPoker have sponsored Kevin Hart. He has competed in well-known tournaments, including the $100k buy-in for the “Super High Roller” at the 2017 PokerStars Championship in the Bahamas.
Other poker acclaims include eliminating 16-time WSOP bracelet winner Phil Hellmuth (renowned for being “The Poker Brat”) from the 300k buy-in Super High Roller Bowl in the Las Vegas tournament before being eliminated in 24th place on the second day of the 5-day event.
Poker In Today’s Gaming Climate
It’s no secret that online poker saw a downturn a decade ago, after the initial boom, with modern online casinos and betting sites taking over in popularity. Online slot sites, casinos and sports betting sites were more accessible and easier for regular punters as they don’t require as much skill as poker does.
Furthermore, the liquidity of poker rooms over the years has gotten smaller, and the ‘Sharks’ (good players) outweighed the ‘Fish’ (the obvious new /beginner players), resulting in unhealthy competitive poker rooms.
You can still easily find plenty of safe and regulated poker sites online; however, the popularity of online poker is not what it was. Many players today seek out more social land-based games and are now returning to how it was before the internet began – for a more “authentic game”.