Proving that his poker skills are just as accomplished as his acting talents, Ben Affleck became the first celebrity to win a major poker open last Monday when he captured Commerce Casino’s California State Poker Championship’s $10,000-buy in event. For his effort, Affleck pocketed a cool $356,400 for first place, and a seat at the World Poker Tour Championship next April.
The popular actor who rocketed to stardom with Matt Damon in "Good Will Hunting," outlasted a field of 90 players, including his friend Tobey Maguire, who went out the first day of the three-day tournament but stuck around to see the finish. (Maguire starred in the hit movie, "Seabiscuit.")
Coming in second was poker pro Stan Goldstein and third was Castle Rock Entertainment president and co-founder Chuck Pacheco. Affleck used a couple of pairs — two jacks in the case of Goldstein and two fives with Pacheco — to seal his victory.
Casino executives said that Affleck played "a very strong game" and that he was relaxed and enjoyed himself immensely. In a brief speech after the tournament while being awarded his trophy, Affleck congratulated Goldstein on being a worthy opponent. With self-deprecating humor, the actor noted he was pleased with his own play, serving notice to the skeptics that he wasn’t "a complete donkey" at poker.
Among the players Affleck outlasted at the final table was former World Champion John Esposito.
Affleck, who has played in a number of the World Poker Tour celebrity events, is an avid student of the game who paid tribute to such WPT pro players as Annie Duke, Antonio Esfandiari and Allen Cunningham, as well as Gabe Kaplan, the former actor-turned poker pro, for tutoring him.
Affleck obviously learned his lessons well as he fought his way to victory after starting the final table with the second to lowest chip count among the nine players.
As play came down to the last hands, Affleck joked to the poker pro Goldstein, "I like it that you are showing respect. I was afraid you thought you could just take it from me."
Goldstein assured him, "You’ve got respect."
Shortly thereafter, Affleck finished off Goldstein.
The victory will earn Affleck a coveted $25,000-seat in the World Poker Tour Championship next April at the Bellagio, which will be filmed for airing on The Travel Channel.