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JENNIFER TILLY



Jennifer Tilly
by Jason Kirk  


Jennifer Tilly - Source LasVegasVegas.com

Since the late 1980s Jennifer Tilly has been best known as an actress, having appeared in well over 100 movies and television shows such as Bound, Bride of Chucky, and Liar Liar. She may not be an "A" list star, but she works constantly and received an Oscar nomination in 1994 for her role in Woody Allen's Bullets Over Broadway. In a very short time, she has become known almost as much for her performances in big poker tournaments as her 20-year acting career.

Tilly became involved with poker in the same way that many other Hollywood celebrities have in the last few years: through playing on television celebrity poker programs. She appeared on an episode of Celebrity Poker Showdown on Bravo during its second season, and also played in the World Poker Tour's third Hollywood Home Game episode. It was around this time that she met and began dating professional poker player Phil Laak, who gave her a couple of poker books to study and taught her about the game. (Tilly claims the method of education was "osmosis.") She began to play more and had enough success to continue playing.

During the 2005 World Series of Poker, Tilly entered the Ladies Event on the same that her boyfriend was playing in the $2,500 Pot Limit Hold'em tournament. As the day progressed, Tilly found herself amassing chips no matter what table she was seated at. In the pot limit tournament, Laak was also piling up the chips and making his way toward the final table. All the while, ESPN's cameras weren't focusing on either tournament - they were filming a no-limit tournament that was also going on that day. At the end of the day the plan for the television network had changed completely - the cameras followed Tilly and Laak as each made their way to a heads-up battle. Laak lost his to Johnny Chan, who claimed his record 10th WSOP bracelet that day, but Tilly held on and won the Ladies Event. Her prize: $158,000 and a coveted gold bracelet.

The poker world was abuzz when Tilly won her tournament. More than a handful of people discounted her win as a fluke, not only because she is an actress who is relatively new to poker but also because they believed that her sometimes ditzy demeanor on television and in movies represented who she really is. No matter what anyone believed, though, she was the champion and had the gold bracelet to prove it. Not only that, but she had a ton of media coverage as well. After her victory she appeared on The Tonight Show on NBC to talk about her experience at the WSOP, and garnered a cover article in CardPlayer magazine the following month. For anyone who resented Tilly's victory, this was a not the time to pick up a poker magazine or watch a broadcast of the game.

Tilly's detractors would soon receive another surprise - and one that seemed to shoot a big hole in the notion that she didn't know enough about the game to really be any good at it. Tilly received an invitation to play in the World Poker Tour's annual Ladies Night episode. Perhaps unexpectedly, Tilly won the event. She outlasted some tough players, including touring pro Isabelle "No Mercy" Mercier (WPT Season 2 Ladies Night champion), Cecelia Mortensen (tournament player and wife of 2001 WSOP champion Carlos Mortensen) and Aidiliy Elviro (fiancee of Michael "The Grinder" Mizrachi). Anyone who doubted that she knew her way around a poker table pretty well now had scant evidence to back themselves up - with two major women's titles in one year, Tilly had definitely established her presence in the poker world.

Tilly has continued to stay involved in poker since her two title wins this year. Most recently she appeared on GSN's Poker Royale: The James Wood Gang Vs. The Unabombers, playing for her boyfriend Phil Laak's team. The chances are very good that she'll continue to play the game - after her WSOP win, she said that having the bracelet was "better than an Oscar." Those are big words from someone who's been paid to act for over two decades, but given her success at the table they're also very understandable.


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