|ESPN.com: Page 2||[Print without images]|
|Everyone's playing poker these days -- even celebs like Mena Suvari.|
Travis checked. He had the Lawrence Frank "I Just Realized I'm Coaching in Game 7 of a Playoff Series" face going. Even Mena could see right through him. But she stared him down a while for good measure (or maybe she was just kicking herself for turning down "American Pie 3"). Finally, she raised. What took her so long? She was holding two 10s. Travis quickly folded, and he seemed ready to suffocate himself with his cowboy hat. It was not his finest hour. Meanwhile, Mena raked in the chips without cracking a smile. Apparently this was some serious stuff. I think we've gone too far. Poker has gone mainstream? Can we vote on this? What happened to the days when poker was cool, when only a few people knew the nuances, when it meant something to pony up that 10 grand for the World Series? Remember when somebody could make a terrific poker movie -- say, "Rounders" -- and only an elite group understood the magic of that climactic flop?
|Want the inside scoop on how realistic the poker film "Rounders" really is? Check out Jeff Merron's Reel Life story on the movie.|
I didn't care. I loved "Rounders." I wanted to be Mike McD. I wanted to topple Teddy KGB. I wanted to bluff Johnny Chan and hear him ask, "Did you have it?" then calmly respond, "I'm sorry, John. I don't remember."
Maybe poker wasn't as glamorous in real life as they made it out to be in "Rounders" -- for instance, I never played at a table where Famke Janssen brought me over that first pile of chips -- but it still sucked me in. I honed my skills on stud and low-stakes hold 'em, marked as a preppie who thrashed his buddies a few times and then mistakenly assumed he could hang with the big boys. And I played that role to a T. I wore my baseball hat backward, forgot to ante and seemed generally confused as they circled me like the Sisters surrounding Andy Dufresne. My friends were always shocked when I returned with a profit: "You won? You beat those guys?" I felt like I had taken Pedro deep. I didn't feel nearly as special when ESPN started televising those World Series tournaments. In "Rounders," Johnny Chan seemed larger than life, like seeing Tiger's character unlock in Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2004. But many of the best poker players looked like you could find them hanging out in an airport smoking lounge. The unintentional comedy was off the charts. You were just as likely to see a hideous rug as a full house. Even the most recognizable player in the game, Phil Hellmuth, marketed himself as a McEnroe-style hothead and came off like a more manic version of Bania from "Seinfeld."
|Chris Moneymaker earned a cool $2.5 million by winning last year's World Series of Poker.|
"It's all about luck," a surprised Sal said later. "Once you know what you're doing, it's all about luck."
He may think that now ... but just wait until Mena Suvari is staring him down. Bill Simmons is a columnist for Page 2 and ESPN The Magazine