Cheadle, Phifer headline WPT Invitational

Vince Vaughn
Vince Vaughn brought his motorboating ways to the Celebrity Invitational in 2007.

It's an entirely different kind of World Poker Tour event.

It's certainly the only WPT event where you'll see Mike Sexton dumping half his stack to a clueless Paris Hilton just to keep the famous heiress in the game.

It's also the only WPT event where you'll see Phil Laak skip the first of the tournament's three days and then show up for Day 2 with nearly a full stack to his credit.

It's definitely the only WPT event where you'll see John Phan, Vanessa Rousso and Bill Edler buying rounds of Coronas for their table while across the felt, Jon Favreau simmers on a low boil as he tries to play some serious cards.

And it's emphatically the only WPT event where you'll see a reporter, a little tipsy from the preponderance of alcoholic beverages at the pregame cocktail reception, engage in an argument with Vince Vaughn over the former's right to take the latter's picture.

The Celebrity Invitational is a yearly freeroll event open to as many A-through-D-list celebrities as can be coaxed into attending, as well as your basic chef's surprise of big-name poker pros, near-anonymous character actors and rich whales who are buying in with straight cash for the $25k WPT World Championship.

This year, tournament organizers expect the likes of Don Cheadle, Good Charlotte guitarist Benji Madden, Ray Romano, Nelly, Jose Canseco, Tia Carrere, Ricki Lake, Donnie Wahlberg and Mekhi Phifer on the celebrity side of things.

Joining the stars in pursuit of a piece of the $200,000 prize pool will be poker pros Phil Hellmuth, Mike Matusow, the aforementioned Laak, Antonio Esfandiari and Jamie Gold as well as, presumably, any pro who likes their shot in a $200k freeroll with non-poker players and who has the cash to buy in to the WPT Championship early.

This year, the WPT has added a new twist to the game.

For the first time in Celebrity Invitational history, players will be allowed to rebuy in the early levels for a $200 donation to Phifer's The Vine Group USA, a nonprofit organization that provides educational assistance in Africa.

It's a move that is sure to increase the tournament's already frenetic pace, but an addition that elevates the tournament beyond a simple gathering of celebrities, giving it footing in the realm of social responsibility.

The Invitational is always a good time (see above) and PokerListings will be on scene, TV cameras in hand, to record all of the inanity.

Action begins at 7 p.m. Pacific Time Saturday. Follow the action live in the Live Tournaments section.


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