Celebrity Poker Showdowns – Analyzing Famous Faces at the Poker Table

Celebrity Poker Showdowns, airing on Bravo, features celebrities playing for charity through qualifying games of poker on TV. Winners advance to the championship game where one winning celebrity receives an award for their chosen charity.

Phil Gordon is a poker expert and champion who provides commentary throughout the tournament, offering easy-to-understand explanations of basic poker strategy concepts.

Maura Tierney

This week on Unqualified Anna and Sim are joined by Golden Globe-winning actress Maura Tierney (NewsRadio, ER, The Affair). Together they explore her poker background. Additionally, the two discuss celebrity life, as well as pros and cons of acting, before uncovering how Maura found success on screen.

Tierney made her mark as an actress when she joined NBC medical drama ER as nurse Abby Lockhart in 1999, becoming a ratings success and garnering Tierney a nomination for an Emmy Award nomination due to her outstanding performance on screen.

Tierney also appeared on Bravo’s celebrity poker game show Celebrity Poker Showdown. This program featured 25 celebrities competing in a five-game tournament of no limit Texas hold’em for charity; winners from qualifying games earned commemorative silver poker chips and advanced to the championship game. Each table’s tournament was initially condensed into one hour episodes but subsequent seasons gradually extended the airtime for more tournaments; several celebrities even won multiple games throughout.

Dule Hill

At the second tournament of this series, actors including Dule Hill (known for playing presidential aide Charlie Young on The West Wing) joined Maura Tierney, Rosario Dawson and Michael Ian Black at their table for a celebrity tournament.

This limited-run celebrity poker game show was hosted by Dave Foley and Phil Gordon; each celebrity started with $10,000 worth of chips to play five games before moving onto the Championship telecast if they won.

Dule Hill eventually took home first place and earned a commemorative silver chip for his charity organization, while runner-up Judith Light earned $80,000 in charity donations. Meat Loaf, David Collins, Sharon Stone and Carlos Bernard all participated in the final, with Meat Loaf losing to both of Judith Stone on consecutive hands for the first time ever on television’s version of Poker Showdown! Carlos Bernard, Bill Brochtrup and Kathleen Madigan also appeared.

Michael Ian Black

Michael Ian Black is beloved among sketch comedy fans for his roles on The State, Viva Variety, Stella and Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp. Additionally he wrote and starred in several comedy series such as Tom Goes to the Mayor, Crank Yankers Reno 911! and Michael & Michael Have Issues.

Celebrity Poker Showdown ran from 2003 to 2006 and featured five celebrities playing a single table of No Limit Texas Hold’em for charity; winners from each preliminary game advanced to a championship match.

Foley and Gordon helped legitimize poker in America through this show and World Poker Tour, leading to an explosion of growth for the game. Foley and Gordon even provided their voices for an episode of Joey where they participated in an imaginary celebrity tournament that featured Chandler Bing (played by Matt LeBlanc). It was an amusing bit that showed just how far poker has come.

Rosario Dawson

Rosario Dawson, best known for her roles in movies like Men in Black II, Sin City and Seven Pounds is also an accomplished poker player. She took part in the Celebrity Poker Showdown tournament where she advanced all the way to the championship game before falling short against Maura Tierney.

Dawson has made her name through acting, appearing in both the movie version of Rent and Brothers Bloom as well as active political engagement and charity/social causes such as Lower East Side Girls Club and Global Cool.

Dave Foley was another notable celebrity who found himself trying his luck at poker. Best known for his days on NewsRadio and work with The Kids in the Hall comedy troupe, as well as voice acting for animated movies Brother Bloom and Pinocchio; as well as appearing in an NBC heads-up poker show Face the Ace but its longevity was short due to many affiliates choosing not to preempt it due to fears it might expose children underage gambling to gambling-related programming during prime time hours.

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