Stars shine for

Feb 14, 2006 12:42 AM

What kind of event could attract such diverse celebrities as Burt Reynolds, James Woods, Ray Romano, Jason Alexander, Mimi Rogers, Stephen Collins, Jennifer Tilly, Sara Rue, James Garner, Kevin Weisman, David Sutcliffe, Lou Diamond Phillips, John Schneider, Anne Heche, Ron Livingston, Adrian Young, Gavin Maloof, Jeremy Sisto, Marissa Jaret Winokur, Joshua Morrow, Rick Fox, Christopher Rich, and Cindy Margolis, the most downloaded woman on the internet?

The World Poker Tour Invitational, of course! It’s the most sought after ticket in poker.

The event at Commerce Casino, televised annually on the Travel Channel, draws more than 75 celebrities, competing against 200 of the leading players in the game — including many of the poker millionaires created on the World Poker Tour.

This is where you’ll see T.J. Cloutier, Phil Hellmuth, Doyle Brunson, Gus Hansen, Jennifer Harman, Daniel Negreanu, Erick Lindgren and Phil "The Unabomber" Laak go head-to-head with the biggest names in television and film for a piece of a $200,000 prize pool and a $25,000 seat in the WPT World Championship at Bellagio in April.

The last celebrity to exit the tourney will also earn $10,000 for his or her favorite charity.

This year’s WPT Invitational is slated for Feb. 22-23, with the final table on Feb. 24. Last year, stage and screen actor Tom Everett Scott became the first celebrity to make the final six, finishing third in the event and pocketing $25,000.

The winner was Costa Rican poker star Alex Brenes. In 2003, Laak, "The Unabomber," took home the title after an animated performance that included pushups and shadow boxing with his tablemates.

Celebrity players in previous years have also included Ben Affleck, Tobey Maguire, Don Cheadle, Ed Asner, Jon Favreau, Sharon Lawrence, Norm MacDonald, Dean Cain, Camryn Manheim, Hill Harper, Richard Karn, Krista Allen, Macaulay Culkin, Laura Prepon, Sarah Gilbert, Willie Garson and Lolita Davidovich.

Many more are expected to join the rush to the green felt as the days get closer to the start of the event. This year’s celebrities have an additional year’s worth of practice under their belts and new tips gleaned from the World Poker Tour shows.

"The World Poker Tour is all about letting people live their dreams and celebrities are no different. They all want to be the one counting the money at the Final Table," said Steve Lipscomb, CEO and founder of WPT Enterprises. "We’ve made the WPT Invitational, already the most prestigious poker tournament in Hollywood, even better this year by adding an extra day and starting it at night, enabling more celebrities to come after they have completed their filming schedules for the day. We anticipate a blockbuster event!"

Fans may view the final table on Feb. 24, with seating available on a first-come, first-serve basis. The tournament will begin at 5 p.m. but it is suggested that that fans arrive by 3 p.m. to ensure a spot. The Commerce Casino, the country’s largest poker room, is located at 6131 East Telegraph Road in Commerce, just five minutes from downtown Los Angeles off the Washington exit of the 5 Freeway.