Jennifer Tilly tells PokerPlayer about the 10 things she knows: “Sometimes it’s difficult to play poker with people who have seen you on TV”

’10 things I know’ with poker player and actress Jennifer Tilly

When I won my WSOP bracelet in 2005, it was like a light had been switched on in the closet.

I was playing really well, but had accessed a zone – some weird pocket of energy where I could read people really well. I just knew what they had. I could raise and they’d fold. This past year, it’s been a real struggle to get back to that zone. It’s somewhere in my body, but is proving difficult to access. It’s like when you stumble across a big house with a secret passage and you forget where it is. Where is that fucking secret passage? Recently though, I’ve started to remember again – thankfully.

I’ve had more than my share of bad beats.

I think the universe is trying to teach me something. I make genius calls, only to be killed in the end. At last year’s WSOP I played better than I’ve ever played. I kept getting my chips in when I was ahead, but lost on every occasion. Doyle Brunson said I was making the correct calls. They were the kind of confrontations you’re waiting for.

I had a really good WSOP in 2006.

I played in a tournament every single day and cashed in two events. Compared to the previous year, I was 67% better overall. The groove was there all the way through. I definitely think I finished the tournament a better player.

I like playing with professionals rather than people who don’t know what they’re doing.

You can win a lot more money off a pro, because they totally understand what you’re trying to represent. I was playing with a top player recently and I had nothing in this particular hand. The flop came A-K-x. He bets, so I put him on an Ace and called. I checked the rag turn. He bets again, so I call. The river’s a King and I decide to wade in with a big bet. He folded and showed me the Ace. It was a huge pot. I forget why I was in the hand, I’m sure there was some logic, but I knew he had me until that King came.

I feel like I’m approaching the level of a pro

Whereas before I was a sort of celebrity savant. My favourite days are when I’m playing really well and I can tell that the professionals at the table are impressed. I like that much better than when I’m sitting with a bunch of people and they’re asking me about Bride of Chucky. Phil [Laak] told me that this pro sat down with him the other day and said I was the best professional he’d played with in three weeks.

Sometimes it’s difficult to play poker with people who have seen you on TV.

I played super aggressive in a tournament recently. Every time the pot came around to me, nobody had put in a raise. It’s like the last cookie’s on the plate – so I’ll take it. I amassed a huge chip stack. Then I moved to this table with a bunch of kids. It was late and I was really tired, but I hardly played any hands because I wanted to end the day with a big stack. They phoned their friends and became all hysterical, shrieking: ‘She plays every pot!’ Then, at the end of a hand, they’d be asking: ‘What do you have? You don’t have anything!’ Every time I entered the pot, they went all-in, and the blinds were huge at that point; so when you go three times the big blind and they go all-in, that represents a sizeable chunk of your stack you know you’re throwing away.

I get offered lots and lots of poker movies.

I’m trying to keep my acting and my poker separate. I did Deal because I wanted to go to New Orleans with Phil and Antonio [Esfandiari]. We were allowed to improvise, which was great fun. I didn’t have to play myself, which was an important factor in me doing the film.

Phil’s ‘Unabomber’ look is really good because it’s intimidating

even though it doesn’t reflect his personality at all. I like to wear sunglasses at the poker table because you look like a cyborg – rather than a girl blinking nervously. But the style factor can backfire. Recently I went out of a tournament after misreading the board wearing sunglasses. There I was, just sitting there, wondering why the chips weren’t coming towards me when I hadn’t seen the flush.

People love to be around Phil.

He’s such a happy guy who wakes up smiling or laughing. Once in a while something will get him down, but most of the time he really appreciates his life. People always say to me: ‘You and Phil look so happy, when are you getting married?’ That’s why we’re happy, because we’re not married.

People think the pros enter lots of pots because TV edits it down.

It’s surprising when you watch the frequency at which they enter pots. Doyle Brunson is just a precision player. He doesn’t enter every pot, but when he does, he owns it.

Jennifer was talking to PokerPlayer which is the world’s best poker magazine and you can read it HERE

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