The actor from Hawaii has a growing list of tournament results in smaller events around the US and is in Las Vegas now competing at the 2014 World Series of Poker.
Barrese has been playing poker and other games since she was a kid but now has serious plans to play professionally. She's been putting in the time and working with a coach since last year.
“I wanna go pro,” Barrese said.
“I’m Russian, so I’ve been playing games my whole life,” Barrese said. “Chess, backgammon, gin, poker, but we played Draw when I was little. We always played for money. Like on thanksgiving, even my little cousins, we all played for money.”
Barrese picked up No-Limit Hold’em from a boyfriend when she was about 16 years old. Later on, Barrese started playing home games.
“I was hosting a lot of games at my house and kind of beating everyone,” Barresse said. “I didn’t want to take their money.”
So Barrese graduated to casino poker cash-games and tournaments and believes she has what it takes to make a living grinding.
Director Todd Phillips “Unbeatable” on Set
In The Hangover series Barrese plays Tracy, the wife of the guy who got stuck on the roof. Although much of the films are set in Las Vegas, her scenes were filmed elsewhere.
That didn’t stop her and the rest of the cast from breaking out the cards and poker chips, though.
“You know what, everyone plays on set,” Barrese said. “I was probably the fish out of everyone for sure.”
Barrese considered everyone's poker skills to be about average, with one notable exception.
“Todd Phillips, the director, he’s an amazing poker player,” Barrese said. “Todd is definitely the best, hands down, he’s unbeatable.”
Phillips -- who directed The Hangover trilogy, Road Trip and Old School -- has cashed in live poker tournaments for more than $280,000, with most of it coming from a 5th-place finish in a 2005 WPT Main Event in Los Angeles.
Barrese says Phillips plays a lot of PLO cash games but tends to make his way down to the WSOP every now and then.
Phillips’ last WSOP cash was in 2011 when he finished 153rd in a $1,500 NLHE 6-max event. But Phillips and Barrese haven’t battled over the felt recently.
“I haven’t played with anyone [from the movie] for a while,” Barrese said. “I don’t know if anyone else has gotten any better. I might’ve gotten a little better.”
Barrese has been working on her game more seriously the past few years, but she’s been playing games with money on the line for a long time.
Barrese At Home in Las Vegas
So Barrese is back in Las Vegas, a place she knows well. Barrese travelled to Las Vegas a lot when she was younger and heard stories of high-rollers past.
“The best Vegas stories I’ve ever heard -- because I used to come here a lot with my family growing up -- were the Kerry Packer stories,” Barrese said.
“He was a big business man from Australia and he was extremely generous and used to stay at the mansion at the MGM when it was private.
“He was known for retiring cocktail waitresses and he would throw money in the air and have the staff come up to his room and get as many $100 bills as they wanted.”
Debauchery isn’t for Barrese, though, as she’s currently pregnant with twins, a boy and a girl. The yet-to-be-born children are also limiting the amount of poker Barrese is playing.
“Since I’m extremely pregnant with twins, I’m only going to play until Tuesday of next week,” Barrese said. “We’re gonna go and then we’re gonna come back out for Matt Stout’s charity tournament at the beginning of July.”
But now Barrese is in the $1,000 NLHE, her second event of the summer. Barrese failed to cash in yesterday’s $1,000 PLO but is hoping to score her first WSOP result today.