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Celebrities Flock to Weekend Charity Poker Events
It appears Hollywood's poker community is as big and strong as it has ever been.
First, names like Christian Slater, Jason Alexander, Slash and T-Pain rocked the Pokerstars.Net NAPT Venetian Charity Tournament in Las Vegas on Friday, raising more than $42,000 for Southern Nevada's Three Square food bank.
Then, the WPT's Celebrity Invitational drew a list of stars a half-mile long Saturday, bringing a host of railbirds and paparazzi to the Commerce Casino in Los Angeles.
This time around the charity was Chrysalis, a non-profit organization helping homeless and economically disadvantaged people get jobs. While the final numbers aren't in yet, every $200 rebuy and add-on from a record 567-player field full of poker dignitaries and household names will head in its direction.
Emmy nominated actress Teri Hatcher, Entourage star Jerry Ferrar and Sam Levine from Quentin Tarantino's Academy Award nominated film Inglourious Basterds were just a few of the famous faces seen in L.A.
Donnie Wahlberg and Marlon Wayans also dropped by - two of a few who played in both events back-to-back.
Fresh Prince of Bel Air star Alfonso Ribeiro said he really doesn't play poker but figured he'd give it a shot at Commerce for a good cause.
"A couple of buddies of mine were like, let's go play and have a good time and I said, 'let's do it, why not?'" he said. "They helped me sort of brush up to get ready. I'm a quick study, so we'll see what happens."
Emmy-winning actress Camryn Manheim is a veteran of these events and the game itself.
She plays in a number of Hollywood home games, including one that's all-female with Hatcher, Ellen DeGeneres, Portia de Rossi and Ricki Lake among others.
"People go home with four or five thousand bucks," she said. "It's not too serious, but it's not bad and some of the tournaments we've had, people have gone home with twenty grand."
Manheim even played host to her own charity tournament at Commerce this past October raising thousands for traumatized children in the Los Angeles area.
"I love poker," she said. "I love to play poker, I play in a couple of home games and as many of these events as I can. I'm a mom first though and I have a full time job, so I'm not like a freak."
Wayne's World babe Tia Carrere is a bit of a regular at the Celebrity Invitational as well, but she's no expert rounder.
"It's the only time I play," she admitted. "I used to do these small home games in between with other actors, but not really anymore."
In truth, it was the charity that drew Carrere.
"Chrysalis is a great organization because they teach people how to take care of themselves," she said. "People who were previously homeless or drug addicted. They teach them a skill so that they can be employable."
"This is what we need to do. Help people get back on their feet again instead of doling out welfare. That doesn't help anybody. You know? Teach a man to fish."
The WPT Celebrity Invitational will continue Sunday until just six players remain then return Mar. 3 for the televised final table with a $100,000 first-place prize on the line.