Big buy-in events always attract a handful of poker-obsessed celebs, but it's only the Main Event that can draw them forth in these numbers. Many of them are little more than another $10,000 of dead money and an interesting story for the other players at the table but a few seem to take the competition more seriously than the rest.
The first glimpse of a celebrity sitting atop the chip counts was on Day 1B as Montel Williams took on the role of chip leader for much of the day. The afternoon talk show host was sporting a personalized USS Dwight D. Eisenhower aircraft-carrier cap and a shirt that was louder than the bratty teens Montel is so used to reprimanding on television.
Making questionable plays throughout the day, Williams's stack peaked during the afternoon before suffering a long series of losses that saw him finish the day well below average.
A little known fact about Williams is that he began his work in television only after retiring from a 22 year career in the US Navy. In addition to a Daytime Emmy Award, Williams has also been honored with an Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, Two Navy Expeditionary Medals, two Humanitarian Service Medals, a Navy Achievement Medal, two Navy Commendation Medals and two Meritorious Service Medals.
Although Day 2A saw the fall of Montel, calling all-in after the turn with just ace-high and the nut flush draw, there was no shortage of other familiar faces hailing from the four corners of the entertainment industry.
Spiderman's Tobey Maguire, a relative regular here at the WSOP, was at the felt, keeping a low profile and doing his best to avoid inquisitive photographers. Maguire's desire to leave no photographic evidence of his participation here at the World Series is unclear but there is no shortage of theories put forth by those in the media.
Some feel it's his vanity that is responsible. Not wanting his fans' superhero image of him to be shattered by stark photographs of an unremarkable Maguire sitting elbow to elbow with other, equally unremarkable, poker players.
Others assert that his publicist is to blame, with his role-model status to a generation of youngsters standing in the way of him fully wallowing in the degenerate glory of the WSOP Main Event.
Whatever his motivation, Maguire has become extremely adept at blocking and otherwise confounding reporters trying to snap his picture. Even from across the room, camouflaged by a group of chatting fans and equipped with a ridiculously large telephoto lens, photographers are shocked to see Tobey's eyes pick them off the second the camera is raised.
Today it took an all-in situation with Maguire's tournament life on the line to sufficiently baffle his spidey-sense. With all his attention on the felt, he was unable to overcome the quick-draw of the fastest camera in the west, leaving us with a few rare images of Maguire in action.
Elsewhere in the tournament room was the ever bombastic Brad Garret, who outlasted his sitcom costar Ray Romano who hit the rail early in his Day 1 heat. Garret has earned himself a reputation as being ruthless in his verbal treatment of everyone within earshot, starting last year at the roast of Doyle Brunson hosted by Garret.
Despite the fact that Brunson was the intended target of the ribbing, Garret proceeded to absolutely annihilate Pamela Anderson who was there to speak as well as promote the launch of the short-lived Pamela Poker room. Referred to as vulgar and over the line Garret did succeed in getting more than a few laughs at Anderson's expense.
Also in attendance in the last few days were a slew of other notable names. Sam Simon, co-creator of The Simpsons, among other things, began his World Series odyssey on Day 1B and is still alive and kicking.
Actor/writer/director Nick Cassavetes made it through to Day 2 and Director Todd Phillips has been running great, hovering around the chip lead for most of the day. Perhaps the most thrilling sighting for PokerListings.com was rapper Nelly who put his country grammar to use at the table. Big league slugger Jose Canseco sat down on Day 1 but was unable to make the Day 2 cut.
It's interesting to see poker pros, whom many have come to think of as celebrities in their own rights, interact with famous actors and show-biz personalities. Despite the stardom that these gamblers have found themselves part of, many still think of themselves as regular people who happen to have a job that has recently attained fad status. Never is this clearer than when they find themselves sitting next to a bona fide star.
Conversely, most Hollywood celebrities find themselves both awed and intimidated by the biggest names in poker, especially when facing them on the felt. This dynamic makes for interesting table-talk and, more often than not, many a star hitting the rail courtesy of the pro they were sharing a laugh with just moments before.