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Poker News | World Poker News

The Big BET Event at Planet Hollywood

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Last weekend was the official opening of the new Planet Hollywood Casino in sin city and the stars were shining while they played poker. Poker Pro Phil Ivey isn't the only black poker player that can play and the first Black Poker Star's tournament, which was filmed for television network BET (Black Entertainment Television), proved it.

The tournament drew big names from the entertainment industry including actors, comedians and rap artists. Some of those attending were Anthony Anderson, Mekhi Phifer, Eddie Griffin, Katt Williams, Orlando Jones, Kevin Hart and Nelly.

The celebrity players played in two heats where they earned points. The players who amassed the most points were rewarded with a seat at the final table. Comedian Kevin Hart managed to place first and second respectively in his two rounds, and was guaranteed a seat at the final table.

Hart commented on his play and joked, "Getting to the final table was not hard at all. I'm here playing with a bunch of roody-poos." On the serious side he added, "I have been playing for about four years pretty seriously. I am a big player at the Commerce and at the Bike. I have grown a passion for the game. I would love to get to the point where I can rub elbows with Mike Mizrachi and David Williams in tournaments, and they can say, hey, this guy is a good player. Hopefully from something like this, even though it is only celebrities, people can see that I'm a good player. Plus, I'm a sex symbol. One thing ya'll need in poker is sex symbols!"

The commentator for the event was poker pro David Williams who is also a poker coach to celebrities. Williams also couldn't resist playing and jumped into the action in a $5/$10 limit side game. Of the player line up, Williams said' "We have a few players that have never played before jumping in, and then we have guys like Nelly, Kevin Hart, and Mekhi Phifer who play all the time. So, overall it has created a good, fun game where people don't mind calling people's all-ins with two random suited cards, just having fun."

Hart may have changed his mind about the "fun" aspect of the game after the last hand he was involved in at his ring game table. Williams was heads-up with actor/rapper Nelly and almost went bust when he flopped a flush and Nelly stayed all the way to make a runner, runner full house. When heading to the cage, Nelly was heard boasting about winning so many chips he had to use his jacket to carry them all.

The star-studded tournament event was actually a charity fundraiser, with the top finishers donating their winnings to their favorite charities. Actor Orlando Jones was playing for charities in South Carolina, his home state. Jones commented, "I'm actually playing for a number of local community charities in South Carolina. I like knowing the families that you are particularly helping, so that you can build a long-standing relationship with them, rather than a short-term one."

Mekhi Phifer is one of the more poker "seasoned" celebrities who attended this event. Phifer plays on the World Poker Tour in the Hollywood Home Games for the Love Our Children USA charity. He also won season four of Bravo's Celebrity Poker Showdown. When he is not playing poker he can be seen as Greg Pratt on NBC's television program ER. Phifers televised poker accomplishments have proven once again that everyone can play the game, celebrity or not.

Years ago poker may have been considered a "middle aged white man's game" but that can't be said today. The faces of poker are as varied as the colors of the rainbow, and players can be found in every corner of the globe. Players are emerging to take their place in the poker world, and high profile players like Phil Ivey and Mekhi Phifer are attracting them. African American Poker Players Inc. is carried on MySpace and encourages black players to join and discuss their play.

No air date has been scheduled yet for the Planet Hollywood event, but look for it on BET sometime next year.

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