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Could actors play poker? Of course! As a matter of fact their acting skills and certainly their money, gave them a competitive edge. Tobey Maguire, Leanardo Di Caprio, Ben Affleck, David Schwimmer, Larry Flynt, James Woods, Norm McDonald, and other top actors play in major poker tournaments, and many of them had their own weekly game of poker. Basketball’s Dream Team had a regular high-stakes no-limit poker game featuring Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Charles Barkley, and Scotty Pippen in 1992.

Chevy Chase and Johnny Carson are featured at another Hollywood poker game. On any given night at a card club in Los Angeles one can find Jerry Buss and Frank Mariani, the owner of Los Angeles Lakers. The skills (and nonskills) of some of the stars are showcased on the Celebrity Poker Showdown (Bravo) and on Hollywood Home Game (Travel Channel).

(Frank feels that some of the play he’s seen on those shows is suspect. How many people know that Gabe Kaplan (Welcome back Kotter) and Larry Flynt (from Hustler) are two of the best celebrity poker players in the world today? From what he’d seen, it wouldn’t be too long before Leo, Ben and Tobey became three of the better stars of poker. Featured below are a few of the hands of these celebrities.


Since Frank had lost the hand, he felt that the setting for this hand was much better than the actual hand! In 1995, the owners of Lakers, Jerry Buss and Frank Mariani, invited a few of the high-stakes poker players to the Lakers training camp in Hawaii Frank and Huck Seed had been quite keen to attend. Could one blame them?

Regrettably for Frank and Huck, they had been up all night long before they flew to Hawaii, and instead of sleeping on the plane ride, they had played high-stakes Chinese Poker all the way to Honolulu! They spotted Johnny Chan even before they got out of the car when they arrived dead tired at the Hawaii Prince Hotel in Waikiki. Johnny had informed them that the Lakers players only dinner was about to begin, and that they had been invited.

Cool! So, naturally they had gone right to the players’ dinner having not slept in thirty hours. A poker game had been arranged to begin after the players’ party at Jerry’s request. The game was to be held in Jerry’s suite the honeymoon suite! IF Frank were to be believed, the honeymoon suite at the Hawaii Prince Hotel was a must see. It was on the top of the hotel and looked out over the beach, the docks, and the ocean. They had watched the sunrise from up there, and it had been amazingly beautiful.

The participants in the $400-$800 limit hold’em poker game had been Johnny Chan, Yosh Nakano, Jerry Buss, Huck Seed, Phongthep ‘Tab’ Thiptinnakon and Frank. For your information, Jerry preferred Hold’em poker, and he had recently finished second in a World Poker Tour invitational event. Cedric Ceballos, the former NBA star (not sure whom he played for presently) had watched them play for a while. It had been a nice setting. It was really sad that Huck and Frank had got massacred for over $30,000 apiece in the game!

The following great hand had come up between Jerry and Frank during the course of the game. Frank, at second position, had raised it up by making it $800 to go with a ten of spades and eight of hearts. Jerry had reraised and made it $1,200 to go with a King of spades and ten of diamonds on the button (last position). The flop had come down seven of spades, nine of hearts and the Ace of diamonds. Jerry had bet $400 after Frank had checked.

The Jack of clubs had flopped at the turn, making a board seven of spades, nine of hearts, Ace of diamonds and Jack of clubs. Then, Frank had bet $800 with the nut straight, following this Jerry had raised it up, making it $1,900 to go; and Frank reraised, making it $2,400 to go. Jerry had called. The Queen of diamonds flopped on the river, making the final board seven of spades, nine of hearts, Ace of diamonds, Jack of clubs and the Queen of diamonds.

Frank had bet $800 with his Queen-high straight, Jerry had raised it $3,200, and then Frank made the out-of-his-mind raise to $4,000. Jerry had called since he assumed (certainly) that they both had the nut straight at that point. Jerry had just called Frank. It had been painful for Frank to recall this hand as he had lost $4,000 on the last card. Firstly, Frank had made a bad raise with the ten of spades and eight of hearts. What was the point of playing that ‘garbage’ (weak hand), particularly when he’d been in the second position?

Jerry made a good reraise before the flop with the King of spades and ten of diamonds since he had known Frank was on the tilt. Frank had made a good check-raise with an open-ended straight draw on the flop. Though it would have been best and equally wise to fold here, Jerry had made a good call. After all, Frank could easily have had a pair of Aces here, in which case he would have been in really bad shape.

Frank had made a good bet with the nuts on the fourth street. Jerry’s raise was questionable with the double-belly-buster straight draw (he needed a Queen or an eight). Why did he raise when Frank had shown so much strength? Frank loved his raise to $2,400 on the river. It was possible that Jerry had an Ace and Queen or perhaps even the Ace and King (not to mention a lot of other hands). However, Frank had really been out of his mind to reraise to $4,000.

Frank should have guessed, when Jerry made it $3,200 to go. Frank had committed to putting in another $1,900 on the end if Jerry did have a King and ten (which was very possible), because he would have had to call his last reraise, when Frank had made it $4,000 to go. Speaking of which, why hadn’t Jerry made it six bets to go ($4,800) with the best possible hand? Had he been feeling sorry for Frank?

Sure! No, Jerry couldn’t believe that Frank could put that much money in without the same hand that he had. Jerry really thought that it had been a tie hand. After all, what reasonable poker player would have put in five bets on the end without having had a King and ten? Sometimes, assuming that one’s opponents were ‘reasonable’ could cost one a bet!

Frank asked Jerry during the online poker game that night, why he hadn’t sat on the floor at the Lakers game Jerry replied that it made him nervous to be so close to the action. Frank retorted that he loved to sit on the floor. Frank would never forget having watched Michael Jordan play while he had been seated courtside the energy that Jordan put out was amazing. Or having watched Derek Harper talk trash all night with, of all people, the opposing fans!

The next day, when Frank and Huck had gone to the concierge to pick up a package, it had turned out to be a white envelope with second floor tickets for the exhibition game between the Lakers and the Nuggets. Frank thanked Jerry for the seats. It was too bad that they had cost Huck and Frank over $30,000 apiece!


Frank Mariani (co-owner with Jerry Buss of the Los Angeles Lakers) made a $500 last longer but with John ‘Bono’ Bonetti at a recent Legends of Poker Tournament. Bono had had no idea what he had been getting into! He might not have lasted very long if Mariani had not made the bet. However, the bet with Bono had given Mariani some incentive to play his A game. Frank Mariani’s A game has been pretty good!

Mariani made it to the final two tables, but he could not make it to the final table that day – much to Bono’s dismay. Mariani made it to the final table with Frank, a couple of days later, in omaha poker Eight or Better Poker game. After Mariani flopped a wheel, he had busted Frank that day. Frank Mariani has been a first-class guy all the way. He’d been around, playing ever since Frank could recall playing high-stakes poker in Los Angeles.

Every year he had very kindly invited Huck Seed, Yosh Nakano, Eric Drache, Johnny Chan and Frank to the Lakers training camp. After Frank had attended a recent Lakers game as Marianis guest, and with the standard post game poker play in progress, his wife, Lynn had offered to take his wife all the way across town to their hotel. They still remembered that really kind and considerate agreement at the poker table in all those years.

Anyway, the following hand had come up between Mariani and Frank at a Biker Club Casino’s limit Hold’em poker tournament. About twenty players had remained when Mariani reaised it up to $900 to go, in the first position with the Ace of spades and King of spades. The small blind had reraised to $900 with the King of diamonds and King of hearts, Frank had made it four bets with the Ace of hearts and the Ace of diamonds, and Mariani and the small blind had quickly called the cap of $1,200.

Fortunately for Freank, Mariani had started the hand with only $1,900. The flop had come ten of spades, Jack of diamonds and Queen of clubs, which gave Mariani the nut straight. The small blind bet had made it $900. Frank had called, and Mariani had called $700 of the $900 all-in. The Queen of diamonds came off to make the ten of spades, Jack of diamonds, Queen of clubs and Queen of diamonds on the board on the fourth street. Frank called when the small blind bet $900.

The river brought the fourth hearts, so that the final board was ten of spades, Jack of diamonds, Queen of clubs, Queen of diamonds, four of hearts. The small blind had checked, Frank had bet $900, and the small blind had called. The $5,700 main pot limit omaha had gone Mariani with a straight, and Frank the $2,800 side pot with Aces up.

The chips had gone to good use, because Mariani had proceeded to win the poker tournament. Now lets take a closer look at what happened. It appeared that everyone had played his or her hands right before the flop. Frank had already been in the defensive mode because the ten, the Jack and the Queen was one of the worst that he could imagine on the flop.

With that flop, a lot of legitimate hands could have beaten Franks pocket Aces. A pair of tens, Jacks, Queens or an Ace and King, could beat Frank’s pair of Aces. The small blind’s bet on the flop had been OK. Mariani’s raise had obviously been correct, and Frank had liked the reraise by the small blind to try to get rid of Frank. (Perhaps then Frank would have folded a pair of nines or eights.)

Although the bet by the small blind hadn’t been too bad, it had been weak. After all, on what hand had he put Frank? Frank had capped it pre-flop and had called three bets on the flop. Even though Frank thought that he might have been beaten, his call on the fourth street had been very easy. Also, Frank had known the player and thought he had a pair of Aces or a pair of Kings.

Frank had liked the small blinds check on the river (it was about time!) and he had liked his own bet, too. Although, Franks bet had only been good if he’s been willing to throw it away for a check-raise on the end. The small blind really did have a tough call on the end with a pair of Kings, since he could have only beaten a bluff, or the incredibly unlikely Ace and Jack (unlikely that anyone could have played an Ace and Jack that poorly!). Frank's big kitty wished Mariani good luck with the Lakers every year. (Although they didn’t need luck as they were so good.)

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