Shannon Elizabeth makes Dancing debut today

Shannon Elizabeth

She's tackled acting and become a student of poker; now Shannon Elizabeth is taking to the stage to learn a few steps for Dancing with the Stars.

The show, which brings 12 celebrities together for a dance competition, will air the first of its two-episode season premiere tonight. Among the stars chosen for this season is Shannon Elizabeth, actress turned poker player.

Elizabeth is most well-known for her role as the foreign exchange student in American Pie. Her other credits include Scary Movie, Love Actually, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back and a recurring role on That '70s Show.

In recent years Elizabeth has switched gears and has been making a name for herself on the poker circuit as well. She has four World Series of Poker event cashes to her name now, plus she placed third in the 2007 NBC National Heads-Up Poker Championship.

While her acting career and her poker career haven't exactly been illustrious, she may still be the most recognizable female celebrity on Dancing with the Stars this season, at least among the younger crowd.

The other female competitors are Marlee Matlin, Priscilla Presley, Monica Seles, Marissa Jaret Winokur and Kristi Yamaguchi.

Matlin and Winokur are the two other actresses in the mix. Matlin is an Oscar-winning actress for her role in Children of a Lesser God and has made appearances on several TV shows including West Wing, The L-Word, and Desperate Housewives.

Last season of Dancing with the Stars brought a new element to the show; Heather Mills learned to dance with a fake leg. This season, Matlin fills the role of a competitor overcoming an extra challenge in the competition because she's deaf.

Despite the obvious problem of trying to dance to a rhythm you can't hear, she will probably last longer than Winokur based on name recognition.

Winokur's claim to fame is creating the role of Tracy Turnblad in the Broadway musical Hairspray. Since then she has been in the Farrelly brothers' film Fever Pitch as well as in the TV series Stacked. Because her biggest work has been on Broadway, it's likely most people aren't going to know who she is by name or by face.

Priscilla Presley also has some acting on her resume with a starring role in Naked Gun plus appearances on Dallas, Touched by an Angel, Spin City and Melrose Place. She is best known, however, as Elvis Presley's widow.

Presley will have good name recognition, but it will be interesting to see if maybe she learned some of The King's moves to help keep her in the competition.

The final two women in the competition come from the sports realm. Seles was a Grand Slam tennis champion and used to be one of the top-ranked women in tennis. She's used to fancy footwork on the tennis court, but it's probably going to be a tougher transition from the court to the dance floor for her than it will be for Yamaguchi to go from her sport to the dance floor.

Yamaguchi is an Olympic gold medalist figure skater. Since winning the 1992 Olympic figure skating event she has been performing with the Stars on Ice tour, and has founded the children's charity Always Dream Foundation.

Two seasons ago, speed skater Apolo Anton Ono proved that Olympic skaters have what it takes to win a dance competition, and Yamaguchi has even more of an edge in the competition since her skating performances are to music and figure-skating choreography starts in the dance studio.

The men could prove to be Elizabeth's biggest competition though. Traditionally, men have fared better than the women on Dancing with the Stars. While the first season was won by Kelly Monaco, the subsequent four seasons were taken down by men - Drew Lachey, Emmitt Smith, Apolo Anton Ono and Helio Castroneves.

This season's men include: Adam Carolla, Cristian de la Fuente, Steve Guttenberg, Mario, Penn Jillette and Jason Taylor.

Guttenberg and de la Fuente are the actors in the group. Guttenberg was made famous with movies such as Three Men and a Baby, Police Academy, Short Circuit and Cocoon. He'll find a fan base among people who are big fans of '80s movies, but that may not be enough to keep him in the competition long.

De la Fuente has more recent acting credits on his resume. He began his acting career in his native Chile and gained fame in the United States with regular roles on Family Law and CSI: Miami. People Magazine also named him one of the "50 Most Beautiful," which could make him a favorite among the ladies watching.

He'll also have some stiff competition from Mario, an R&B/pop singer. He's easy on the eyes and has a musical background, which has worked for Dancing with the Stars men in the past such as Lachey and Joey Fatone.

A performer of a different sort, magician Penn Jillette will take the stage as well. Of the men, he seems the least likely to have the grace and skills necessary to keep him in the competition. Then again, there's also radio host Adam Carolla whose stints on shows like The Man Show and Loveline don't exactly presage success in such a feminine endeavor.

However, he may have more of a fan base than Jillette because of his work on MTV and with Jimmy Kimmel on The Man Show. It remains to be seen if he's popular enough to trump Elizabeth's fan base as well.

The final male competitor is Miami Dolphin Jason Taylor. He was this year's NFL Man of the Year winner as well as last year's NFL Defensive Player of the Year. His footwork on the field has earned him the NFL record for touchdowns by a defensive lineman, plus he's the Dolphin's all-time leader in quarterback sacks.

You can be sure Dolphins fans will be willing to grab the phone and dial in to vote for their player on Dancing with the Stars - that is if they happen to see he's on there while their wives are watching the show.

Stay tuned to PokerListings each week as we let you know if actress turned poker player Shannon Elizabeth can hold her own on the dance floor or if she gets the boot. The first update will be Wednesday after the competitors have all had their chance to perform tonight and on Tuesday.

All the celebrities will perform once again next March 24, and there will be a double elimination during the March 25 show. We'll let you know if Elizabeth survives to dance another day, and continue to do so until she's out or she wins.

Best Poker Sites - Editor`s Pick

Latest Blogs »