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Picking a celeb to win the WSOP

May 17, 2004 11:36 PM

Which celebrity is master of the bluff? Not in their acting, but for their poker playing skills. Does the youthful Leonardo DiCaprio, the highly visible man-about-town Ben Affleck, or old time player Larry Flynt "have the nuts" (meaning the best hand in poker lingo) to place at the 35th annual World Series of Poker (WSOP) championship event, held at Binion’s Horseshoe, May 22-28?

Drawn to the growing enthusiasm that poker has created, more than two dozen celebrities are expected to play in the prestigious no-limit Texas Hold’em event, in which finalists democratically pay $10,000 for their seat, or opt to play and win a grueling series of low buy-in, preliminary "satellite" games. This year’s purse is anticipated to exceed $25 million in total prize money, the biggest pot for any one sporting event outside of boxing.

Online bettors don’t have to pay for a seat to enjoy — and participate in — all the excitement. They have a mere few days remaining, until May 21 at 11:59 p.m. (EST), to prognosticate on their favorite actors’ or pro-players’ chances at a win, while vying for their own spectator purse, as well-in this granddaddy of all card series.

Pokertropolis (www.poker-tropolis.com) is accepting wagers on who will win the event. The company is supported by Horizon20, the network of companies that’s built a reliable reputation for online security through eHorse and Las Palmas.

Web gamers placing bets at Pokertropolis are creating a cyber side-contest that will parallel WSOP championship play. Players can monitor how their picks compare with others to shape the day-to-day celebrity and pro-player tournament online odds.

Of course only the actual WSOP winner will be the payout. The potential 2004 WSOP field (the actual final list of players is anyone’s guess until the first day of play on 5/22) is projected to have upwards of 2,000 probable contenders, which is double last year’s then whopping field of 830, itself leapfrogging ahead of any of the past 30 years of the event.

Latest odds indicate Leonardo DiCaprio is near the head of the celebrity pack at 425-to-1 odds. Matt Damon is holding at 450-to-1, besting good friend Affleck, and fellow actors Lou Diamond Phillips and Ed Norton — all with 500-to-1 rankings.

James Woods recently pulled slightly ahead of that trio at 490-to-1. On the other end of the spectrum, long-time player Larry Flynt, stuck as a 700-to-1 long shot, is ranking lowest among the entire list of players, while equally seasoned Gabe Kaplan of the hit 70’s show, Welcome Back Kotter, is a leading contender for all players listed with 250-to-1 odds.

The celebs, and especially Kaplan, are competing against such professional well-known contenders as last year’s "Rocky Balboa" surprise champion, Chris Moneymaker, who is slowly moving up from last week’s 500-to-1 odds to a slightly better 480-to-1. A hot question that will be on bettors’ minds is if he’ll remain at a lower ranking in the pool than some of the talented actor players, like close to the top of the actor’s draw Tobey Maguire, at 415-to-1.

Another question asks if highly regarded pro player Johnny Chan will keep his current 225-to-1 lead on the entire pack, much ahead of Moneymaker, or if talented players Gus Hanson, 270-to-1,or Doyle Brunson, 250-to-1, or a new unknown will pull up to the top. But odds will change with each bet cast, creating an exciting online head-to-head horse race for the leaders.

The estimated $3 million grand prize for the champion is a lifetime high payday for most of the tournament players, but in a priority reversal, the win — smaller than one movie deal for these celebrities — is perhaps more treasured by the actors for bragging rights and the chance to employ thespian-crafted machismo in a real-world sport that honors mental finesse alongside the cultivated "con."

Wagering on the players is limited to Pokertropolis members, who may register for free. Bets of $10-$50 may be placed through Pokertropolis’ secure payment site, with a variety of choices for payment. The World Card Player’s Association (WCPA), a Los Angeles-based, decade-old player support group, determined the base-line odds for Pokertropolis.