Jennifer Tilly

Most film stars are scared of flops, but Jennifer Tilly absolutely loves them

Squeaky-voiced Hollywood star Jennifer Tilly shot to fame playing a lesbian who double-crosses the mob in the Wachowski brothers’ (The Matrix) thrilling debut Bound. Then she cemented her acting credentials with a wonderful performance in Woody Allen’s Bullets Over Broadway, which earned her an Oscar nomination. But in recent years her profile has dwindled, having gone down the schlock horror path with two movies about the psychopathic puppet Chucky. Thankfully, when the chips are down there’s always poker.

The double win (2005 WSOP No-Limit Hold’em ladies title and the 2005 WPT Ladies Night win) is pretty impressive considering you’ve only been playing seriously for little over a year…

I know – when I was at the WSOP final table it felt very bizarre. I had a list when I started playing poker of things I wanted to achieve, and one was to make it into the money, to be like a real pro, but I never thought it would happen so soon.

We were expecting you to be wearing the gold bracelet to psyche other players out.

I only wear it out to events, with a lot of other bracelets. It’s $3000 worth of gold and diamonds.

How did you feel when you won the WSOP ladies title?

It was the thrill of a lifetime. One of those things you never think is going to happen, like skydiving over the Andes or becoming president of the United States. I always thought, ‘Oh my god, it would be so great to win a bracelet.’ And it was.

There must have been that extra bit of satisfaction beating pros and not just celebrities…

Oh yeah, it was a proper tournament. A lot of people were like, ‘Oh, she won the women’s tournament’, but I was up against 600 players of which about 100 were pros, so it was quite an accomplishment.

At what stage did you think you could win it?

Before the break – I was really short-stacked with less than four times the big blind. Usually when I’m short-stacked I tend to give up and take a nap, but then I got nine good hands in a row. They had to stop the game at one point to help stack my chips because they were swamping the table. The real turning point was when I re-raised the other chip leader all-in. I had pocket Sevens, so by all rights her pocket Queens should have won, but I caught a gutshot inside straight. Winning was so surreal.

You’ve already proven at the WPT Ladies Night it’s not going to be your only victory.

Once you win a bracelet, a lot of people say it was a fluke and you have to win another one to prove it wasn’t – now I’ve done that.

You don’t want to be another Ben Affleck…

I don’t know what’s happened to him. I think he might have just lost interest, plus it’s hard when you have another career. I’ve just got another television series called Out of Practice, which is putting a crimp in my tournament travel.

Was that a difficult decision?

It’s really hard because I really love poker and I’m getting used to the constant joys of being deprived sleep. Plus, I’m on a bit of a roll at the moment.

Did you and Phil Laak (poker pro boyfriend) meet over the baize tables?

Yeah, the WPT people called the infamous Norby Walters. Every celebrity who plays poker in town is funnelled through his game. He asked me to do the Celebrity Invitational at the Hard Rock Cafe and we met there.

Has Phil been coaching you?

Almost everything I know, I picked from Phil’s brain. He’s a good teacher. We talk about poker all the time. The last thing Phil says before he goes to bed, when he talks in his sleep, and the first thing he says in the morning, it’s all poker-related.

So the big question – does Phil wear his hoodie in bed?

No he doesn’t – I think that would be a little creepy.

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