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Poker News | People in Poker | Poker Superstars

Where Are They Now – Vince Van Patten

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Where are They Now is a series of an in depth look at all poker players - not just the pros - as they travel through one long game. Some of the players profiled are deceased but not forgotten.

Vince Van Patten, is one of the original voices of “the poker boom,” but he and his famous family have made a career of entertaining on the screen from more than just poker announcing.  In other words,  there are still many more truly unique poker stories to come to PokerWorks' 'Where are they Now' series.  Vince Van Patten has made a successful career on the screen and on two types of green, the felt of a poker table and the grass of a tennis court.  Van Patten goes to show that not all poker stories are created the same.

Vince Van Patten was born to Dick and Pat Van Patten on October 17, 1957 in Long Island, NY.  Dick Van Patten is an actor known for such roles on TV as “Eight is Enough,” “Sanford and Son,” “Happy Days,” and more recently, “Arrested Development.”  On the big screen he has appeared in a number of comedy writer Mel Brooks’ films including “Spaceballs” and “Robin Hood: Men in Tights.”  His mom was a dancer that traveled with a dancing troupe known as the June Taylor Dancers which lasted from the mid-40s to 1970.  Needless to say there was a lot of talent in this family, and it wasn’t spared on the children.  Vince’s brothers James and Nels, as well as two uncles and a cousin, are all actors.  

Van Patten’s dad didn’t force any of his kids into the family business and urged them to do what made them happy.  However, dad’s agent saw something in Vince, and after asking his dad a few times if they could turn his son into an actor, he relented.  At nine years old Vince made his television debut, appearing in a Colgate toothpaste commercial.  For the next six years Van Patten appeared in over 30 additional commercials.  When he was 16 he moved to Los Angeles with his family after his dad got a job in a sitcom.  It was here that Van Patten moved from 30 second commercials to sitcoms and movies.  Van Patten appeared in some of the most popular television shows at the time, including “Bonanza.”

While compiling a great acting resume, he was also pursuing another career – as a tennis player.  

In the history of sports, a lot of the more compelling stories have to do with tennis.  Most tennis players start the game at a very young age and do little but focus on the game, many of them never making it to the elite level and fizzling out in their mid 20’s.  None of these players, focused on becoming a great tennis player, were also focusing on an acting career.  It’s virtually impossible to become good at both at the same time, but Van Patten defied odds by doing just that.  In 1979 Van Patten was named rookie of the year in the Associations of Tennis Professionals, or better known as the ATP tour.  His high point in his tennis career came in 1981 when he defeated tennis hall of fame member John McEnroe to win the Seiko World Super Tennis tournament in Tokyo, Japan. It’s crazy to think how good of tennis player he could have been had he concentrated solely on that.  

An acting career continued after his tennis career concluded, and it was during this time that he first became interested in poker.  During slow times in filming, of which there are many, he started playing poker with some of the other cast members of whatever project he was working on at the time.  These poker games on set turned into home poker games with other players.  When poker started to get more popular at the beginning of this decade a new company called the World Poker Tour was looking for announcers to broadcast their weekly tournaments.  Mike Sexton was a natural pick, as he is one of the most recognizable names and voices in the game.  When Van Patten was asked, he jumped at the idea.  He had a good understanding of poker from home games with those in Hollywood, and producers of the WPT liked him for his charisma and good looks.  Just like that Van Patten became the color commentator of what would go down as the most popular poker show, coming up on a decade.  One of the hostesses of the Van Patten home games, Shana Hiatt, who is also his sister-in-law, got the job as hostess of the WPT show.  

Van Patten grew up with home poker games, his dad hosted legendary Hollywood Poker games.  Vince’s reputation for putting on home games only grew when he became a commentator for the World Poker Tour.  His poker games involving the best in Hollywood and the Poker World have grown to the stuff of legends.  Because of this, Van Patten has earned the nickname of “King of the Hollywood Home Game.”   The game has a “need to know” type feeling about it, as those who aren’t invited to the game don’t know much about it.  Those that have been known to play in it are Van Patten’s good friend James Woods, Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, and Tobey Maguire.  Oh, to be a fly on the wall in those games.

Vince plays live poker games frequently in casinos where the WPT is filming and can often be found sitting in a No Limit Holdem game when he’s in town during the World Series of Poker.

In 2007 Van Patten co-wrote the book “Picasso Flop” with mystery writer Robert J. Randisi.  The book, which revolves around a series of murders, received favorable reviews.  Van Patten also is sponsored, fittingly so, by Hollywood Poker, where he plays quite often.  He also continues to act while also dabbling in producing and directing. 

*Read Billy Monroe's Blog*

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