Hollywood has recently seen how celebrities come together to play poker – in the name of raising funds for children in need. That night at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino, rich and famous actors and sports celebrities acted like a bunch of excited players eager to win the favor of lady luck at each table. This event is more commonly known as a celebrity poker tournament, wherein the famous players sit down with the best players and regulars who each donate $500 to play the game.
Personalities like Nicky Hilton, the Backstreet Boys, or tennis stars like the Williams sisters readily come over to play for charity. But the truth is, many of them are quite addicted to the game itself, and lending their shining appeal in the name of charity is merely an added bonus.
Let’s look at how poker came on the rise. Modern tournament play became popular in American casinos after the World Series of Poker started in 1970, producing notable champions like Johnny Moss, Bobby Baldwin, Amarillo Slim, and Doyle Brunson.
The popularity of poker shot even higher as online poker was introduced to the public and the newly invented hole-card camera allowed viewers to take a sneak peak at the evolution of a new kind of spectator sport. Audiences all around the world could witness the action and drama, and later, could watch live telecasts of the World Series of Poker and the World Poker Tour through cable and satellite TV.
As the poker game rose to distinction, so did the poker professional players, who were being treated more and more like celebrities. Later, poker fans the world over started joining the expensive tournaments just to get a chance to play with their favorite poker pros.
With the growing popularity of online satellite-qualifier tournaments, major poker tournament fields expanded dramatically. Online tournaments owe their rising popularity to a much sought after prize – that of winning a chance to enter into a major tournament. Online tourney players like Chris Moneymaker and Greg Raymer, respectively, won their seats to the WSOP by winning online satellite games, and later on went on to become champions.
The number of participants in the WSOP has grown almost every year, with recent years seeing a boom. Thanks to the airing of WSOP airing on ESPN and the World Poker Tour on the Travel Channel, more and more people are getting into the game; both regular Joes and celebrities alike. As a matter of fact, celebrities like Jennifer Tilly, Patrick Bruel and Jan Vang Sørensen have won WSOP bracelets in the late 90s and early 2000s. Traditionally, event winners are given a gold bracelet, on top of the prize money which is laid out in cash inside cardboard boxes.
Not merely a “card game” any longer, poker is now a bona fide sport, with celebrities playing the game right beside the pros.