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Tilly returns at WPT Festa
It's been almost a year since Hollywood actress turned poker pro Jennifer Tilly said goodbye to the poker world, turning her attentions back to acting.
But the 1994 Academy Award nominee and 2005 World Series of Poker Ladies champion came back to the World Poker Tour for the Festa al Lago main event this week and told PokerListings she's here to stay.
"Poker is actually an addiction," she said. "I did take almost a year off. I did a play in the West End and I did a couple of movies, but I found that when I was doing the theatre, I was really missing the poker."
When the curtain would fall in her nightly performances of Wallace Shawn's Grasses of a Thousand Colours at the Royal Court Theatre in London, Tilly would head straight to the famed Victoria Casino to sit in with Neil Channing and the rest of the Vic's regulars.
With boyfriend Phil Laak still pursuing his poker dreams around the globe, Tilly couldn't help but feel poker's pull and soon she was forced to admit her love for the game actually outweighed her interest in acting.
"It's really hard to get away from, especially when you have a boyfriend who you live with who is really fanatic about poker," she said. "I guess now I'm just at a time in my life where I find poker more interesting than acting, although I suppose that could change."
While Tilly enjoyed some success in her first foray into poker, amassing more than $500,000 in tournament cashes, the poker lifestyle articles she wrote for Bluff Magazine that were a little more lifestyle than poker, and some of the mistakes she made on televised poker shows, quickly became fodder for the more visceral voices on several online poker forums.
Looking back, Tilly admitted she found it all rather hurtful and it was one of the reasons she decided to leave the poker world behind.
"I did get very discouraged because lots of times you read online, people are saying all these horrible things about you, people who don't know anything about your game or your stats or anything," she said.
"I had to get my computer expert to break the link to Two Plus Two, because Two Plus Two is like crack. Those guys are really smart and funny and I would go there every day and laugh and laugh and laugh, until I saw something bad about me and I would feel really horrible."
But after a little soul searching in her time away from poker, Tilly feels she's now more equipped to handle the criticism.
"I've never really lived my life, since I got out of high school, caring about what people think that much and I feel like just because it was annoying to other people to have an actress playing poker or they thought my articles were dopey or whatever, I'm not going to crawl into a hole and not try to achieve.
"I think I'm kind of in a place now in my life where I don't care what people think."
Taking a few steps away from playing poker actually gave Tilly the time to refine her game and she also feels better prepared to succeed.
"I've just been doing a lot of reading and studying in my time off and I feel like I'm in really good shape to re-attack the poker thing again," she said. "It's really an amazing game. It encompasses all areas of life. I think poker is really a metaphysical puzzle and every situation you encounter in poker is an analogy for life.
"So the work that I've been doing has been more than going to PokerXFactor or CardRunners or reading all the poker books that have ever been written. It's also been reading books about the conscious universe, how you can tell people are lying and psychic phenomenon, how to expand your brain and reach your peak potential."
Tilly's return to poker has already included a final table appearance at the PartyPoker World Poker Open in London just last week and although she busted out of Festa al Lago late on Day 2 Thursday, she left with a smile and a plan to be back better than ever.
"It's really kind of a lifetime project," she explained. "I've kind of cracked the acting thing, but I could live to be a hundred years old and still not know everything there is to know about poker."