Undoubtedly, many poker players are celebrities in their own right, winning people’s hearts worldwide with their incredible performances at the poker table. However, some famous pro poker players have further elevated their celebrity status. No, they haven’t made their own online casino games — at least not yet. However, they have made surprising appearances in film or TV, making them even more famous than they already were.
Here are three poker pros with numerous film and TV cameos that might have caught you or others off-guard.
1. Johnny Chan
Johnny Chan is a classic example of someone who moved to the United States and embraced everything America had to offer, becoming a millionaire in the process. Originally from China, Chan’s family moved to the United States to seek their fortune. While it was expected that Chan would study and then take over the family business, at the age of 21, he decided to try his hand at professional poker.
Chan played for many years before he made history not once but twice. In 1987 and 1988, he won the World Series of Poker (WSOP,) taking home $625,000 and $700,000, respectively. According to Hendon Mob, he has since accumulated a total of $8,781,704 over his entire poker career.
While he may not have made quite the same splash in the years following his WSOP wins, he still maintained a strong presence on the poker scene for decades with many high-profile wins. However, his incredible back-to-back wins in the 1980s landed him a role in the movie “Rounders.”
In the movie, the character Mike McDermott — played by Matt Damon, a celebrity who loves poker off-screen — a poker player drawn back into gambling to help a friend, recalls beating Johnny Chan. In the scene, McDermott tells one of the other characters in the film about how he went toe-to-toe with the legend. McDermott says, “I sat with the best in the world. And I won.”
Even though Chan may have lost a round of poker in his movie cameo, there’s no doubt he won by appearing in one of the best poker films of all time. He has also had roles in various other films, including “Poker King” as ‘Jack’s Poker Master’ and “Lucky You” as himself.
2. Phil Hellmuth Jr.
Whatever you think of ‘The Poker Brat,’ there’s no doubt that Phil Hellmuth Jr. is a great poker player. He won the WSOP Main Event in 1989, breaking Johnny Chan’s attempt to become the only person to win three WSOP main events for three years in a row, instantly making him a poker legend. If that wasn’t enough, he’s also won 17 WSOP bracelets and claimed dozens of other top finishes in poker tournaments throughout his career. Interestingly, his most significant win of $2,645,333 is for a fourth-place finish in WSOP 2012. In total, Hendon Mob has his total live earnings at $29,893,754.
There’s no doubt that the combination of incredible poker skill and his reputation has helped him stand out from the crowd and may even have played a part in him landing a few cameos and acting roles.
One of the most surprising places where Hellmuth has turned up was in the music video for “Sex Room” by Ludacris. In this music video, Hellmuth appears as a poker player in a game with all of the other stars in the video. The players enjoy a few hands of poker and some drinks, surrounded by beautiful women.
He’s also appeared in the film “Lucky You,” where he played himself alongside many other poker pros. He was also the unnamed ‘Poker Pro’ in the movie “The Grand.” He also appeared in an episode of the “Touch” series as an unnamed character and is credited as ‘Black Cap.’ His last cameo in a TV show was the second season of the series “Billions,” where he once again played himself.
3. Daniel Negreanu
The last entry on this list is another beloved professional poker player, Daniel Negreanu. He was just 23 years old when he participated in a World Series of Poker event and finished first place. At the time, he was the youngest player to receive a WSOP bracelet, which is also how he got his nickname, ‘Kid Poker.’
Negreanu went on to have an incredibly successful career as a poker professional, earning an incredible $51,077,624, according to Hendon Mob. He also started his own poker site where he shares poker blogs and video blogs, promotes his books, and even has a forum where his fans and poker players can discuss the game. If you’ve ever wondered how long it takes to go pro, he designed and teaches a poker course for MasterClass.com.
Negreanu has also made several surprising appearances in various media. His most famous role is ‘Poker Player’ in “X-Men Origins: Wolverine.” While it may have only been an unnamed cameo, seeing Negreanu briefly appear in this big-budget superhero blockbuster was still a lot of fun.
But that’s not the only time Negreanu has popped up unexpectedly in the film and TV industry. He made another small appearance in the music video for Katy Perry’s song “Waking Up in Vegas.” In his cameo, he loses a hand of poker to Perry, who’s with her boyfriend, played by Joel David Moore. The music video tells the story of a young couple who went on a significant winning streak before losing it all, with Negreanu getting his own back in a later hand, claiming Perry’s diamond-encrusted ring as part of his winnings.
Negreanu has also made various other cameos and minor appearances in other shows, including the show “Bodied” as an unnamed ‘Poker Player,’ “Private Eyes” as himself, “Mr. D” as himself, and “Detention” as an unnamed ‘Male News Reporter.’ Like Hellmuth, he also appeared in the films “The Grand” as a ‘Poker Pro’ and “Lucky You” as himself.
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