The World Poker Tour’s (WPT) annual star-studded WPT Invitational at the Commerce Casino last week brought out Hollywood’s new crop of poker aficionados, including such personalities as Ray Romano, Camryn Manheim, Brad Garrett, Dean Cain, Jennifer Tilly, Ed Asner and Lou Diamond Phillips, to name a few.
While the last celebrity "survivor" took home a $5,000 donation for charity, there was plenty more at stake for the 236 total players in the tournament — a $200,000 prize pool and a seat at the WPT World Championship in April. The winner will also receive the elegant and prestigious Argentium Silver trophy, designed especially for the WPT Invitational.
When the dust cleared, Alex Brenes of San Jose, Costa Rica, took the first place prize of $100,000 and the seat in the WPT event at the Bellagio next month.
Rounding out the top finishers were Johan Storakers, Tom Everet Scott, Chris "Jesus" Ferguson, Chan Giang and Bruce Buffer.
While the fans along the rail ogled the celebrities, the celebrities were in awe of their favorite poker stars, many of whom have made their names on WPT telecasts. Seated alongside the stars were such poker luminaries as Doyle Brunson, Layne Flack, Jennifer Harman, Daniel Negreanu, Annie Duke, Scotty Nguyen, Phil Laak, Chris Ferguson, Phil Hellmuth, T.J. Cloutier, Gus Hansen and numerous other champions.
"I think the the World Poker Tour was the fuse that helped poker just blow up," said actor Lou Diamond Phillips. "I know a lot of kitchen and home game players who now see the strategy and yell out the answers. It’s like watching Jeopardy on TV."
The first celebrities to exit the tournament and tell their bad beat stories were former Los Angeles Rams superstar Deacon Jones, followed by Rossi Morreale (Junkyard Mega Wars), Erik Palladino (ER), Dean Cain (Superman), James Woods, Ed Asner, Ty Treadway (SoapNet), Chris Rich (Reba), Sarah Gilbert (ER) and Macauley Culkin.
The WPT Invitational’s final table was taped for the WPT’s much-anticipated third season of high-stakes poker play on the Travel Channel. The new season will air every Wednesday night beginning March 2 at 9 p.m. ET/PT.