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Howard Stutz

Actor Kevin Pollak still alive at main event of World Series of Poker

10 July 2012

Kevin Pollak was planning to spend time at the World Series of Poker hanging around the Rio's convention area to promote the relaunch of, a free-to-play social gaming website where players can interact with celebrities.

He's accomplishing that task from the tables.

Pollak, star of such movies as "Casino," "The Usual Suspects" and "A Few Good Men," survived Saturday's opening round at the $10,000 buy-in No Limit Hold'em World Championship and will play again today.

However, his good fortune may not last.

Out of the 657 players who survived from Saturday's starting field of 1,066, Pollak sits in 305th place with 43,900 in tournament chips, some 222,800 chips behind the leader.

"Obviously I'm going to need to double-up right away so I can avoid getting short stacked," Pollak said.

Clearly, he didn't imagine himself in this position, although he was pleased he lasted longer in the tournament than other celebrities, including actor Ray Romano, who was eliminated Saturday.

"Other than acting opposite Robert De Niro, this was the most sphincter-tightening situation that I've ever been in," Pollak said. "The pressure was insane. I'm not clueless, but I'm not a tournament poker player. I think I had only one run of bad luck in 10 hours of play."

Pollak, 54, came to Las Vegas "as the ambassador" for HollywoodPoker, which had been a for-pay website before the government's April 2011 crackdown on Internet poker.

The website is being relaunched this month to compete with other social gaming domains, such a those run by Zynga and DoubleDown Casino, to capitalize on the popularity of casino-style gaming on Facebook and the Internet.

Pollak said millions of people play every day online and enjoy the aspect of wagering hundreds of thousands of dollars in fake casino chips that cost them less than $1 to purchase.

"The whole idea is to make it about gaming and not about gambling," Pollak said. "It's like pinball. You buy 3 million in chips for 99 cents or whatever for the chance to continue playing."

At HollywoodPoker, regular customers will interact through social media with celebrities that Pollak can bring to the website. The celebrities also have a chance to promote any charities they work with to the players.

Pollak said HollywoodPoker is capitalizing on Americans' fascination with celebrities.

"Twitter was launched with great success on the backs of celebrities," Pollak said. "Where else can you go to find out where someone was eating a pastrami sandwich at lunch? [At HollywoodPoker] we'll have celebrities who love to play poker and you have a chance to sit with them and play sit-and-goes and whatever."

In the days between playing in the Main Event, Pollak and HollywoodPoker representatives were asking average players to show off "their best poker face" as a promotion for the website. On his iPhone, Pollak had photos of director-actor Rob Reiner, NFL Network host Rich Eisen and other celebrities showing their poker face.

Today, however, it's back to the Rio's Amazon Room.

Pollak said he knows he'll have a bullseye on his back. He's easily recognized, and average players "want to be the guy who takes out a celebrity so they have bragging rights back home."

Pollak said he has played poker "since I was 10 years old." He came to be known by the poker community through his hosting of the first season of the Bravo Network's "Celebrity Poker Showdown." His experience has come from cash games and celebrity tournaments for charity.

While filming "Casino" - the Martin Scorsese 1995 epic about organized crime's control of the Strip in the 1970s - Pollak had time in between scenes to increase his poker skills. He portrayed Phillip Green, a character based on 1970s Stardust Hotel owner Alan Glick, who was the mob's front man in Las Vegas.

As an actor, Pollak can play the role of a poker ace.

"I try to be entertaining at the table," said Pollak, who also performs celebrity impersonations. "I'll do Christopher Walken or [Al] Pacino, but when I'm in a hand, the buffoonery stops. The other players see me as serious about the game and I can use that to my advantage."

Pollak said he hasn't been in a movie focused on poker. His role in "Casino," tied him to Las Vegas and gambling somewhat.

"I've read a lot of s----- poker scripts and I've seen a lot of s----- poker movies, but I have not been in a poker movie myself," Pollak said.
Actor Kevin Pollak still alive at main event of World Series of Poker is republished from