Celebrities like to play blackjack, too. Some of them are even pretty good! With the growing popularity of gambling card games in recent years, playing blackjack has become a cool thing to do. Celebrities are all about being cool, so it should come as no surprise that many famous people have decided to try their hand at blackjack.
There are blackjack tournaments which feature celebrities, television shows in which stars play blackjack for their favorite charities, and many casinos in Las Vegas and Atlantic City where celebrities can be spotted.
CELEBRITY BLACKJACK ON GSN
GSN, or the Game Show Network, was the first television network to recognize the popularity of games like poker and blackjack. Throughout the years, GSN has aired many programs such as High Stakes Poker and the World Series of Blackjack which featured the occasional celebrity player. In 2004, GSN decided to launch a show which would feature celebrity gamblers competing for charity. The name of the show was Celebrity Blackjack.
The television show was set up in a blackjack tournament format. Each week a different group of celebrities would square off in an effort to claim a $100,000 grand prize for the charity of their choice. Among those appearing in the first season the following celebrities:
The format of the tournament stipulated that each celebrity begin with $100,000 in starting chips. During a round of play, which equaled one episode of the TV show, players were dealt 21 hands of blackjack. For the first ten hands the minimum bet was $1000. The maximum was $25,000. On hands 11-20, $5000 was the minimum bet and there was no maximum. The bets on the final hand were placed in secret, with the celebrities writing down the amount on a piece of paper. One special rule also gave the game some extra appeal. The game was played with jokers. Whenever a player received a joker they could switch it for any visible un-played card on the table.
The winner of each episode advanced to the final table, which consisted of the five players mentioned above. It is interesting to note that Billy Baldwin was substituting for his wife Chynna Phillips who was unable to appear in the finals after winning her first round.
The show was fun to watch due to the banter between the celebrities, but it was also a competitive affair with the starts trying very hard to best one another. In the end, Caroline Rhea proved herself to be the best blackjack player and won $100,000 for Much Love Animal Rescue and Project ALS.
When Season 2 of Celebrity Blackjack premiered, there were a few changes in the format of the tournament. There were only four celebrities per round instead of five. A semi-final round was added the mix. Perhaps the most significant rule change was the introduction of the five-card Charlie blackjack rule. A player automatically won if they had five cards and did not bust.
The final table of the second season included Jason Alexander, Kelli Williams, Jeff Probst, and Lance Bass. Jason Alexander was declared the winner and earned $300,000 for his chosen charity.
OTHER CELEBRITIES WHO PLAY BLACKJACK
When he isn’t tearing up the stage in Las Vegas with his partner Teller, Penn Jillette has been known to try his hand at the blackjack tables. Jillette is a very skilled player, and there is no doubt his background in magic gives him an advantage. Penn is very familiar with card counting and the mathematical probabilities associated with blackjack. He was invited to be a competitor in the World Series of Blackjack, faring reasonably well even though he did not win the tournament.
Orel Hershiser is a baseball legend who had a stellar career as a pitcher for the Los Angeles Dodgers. After his retirement from professional baseball, Orel has become a famous gambler. He is a member of team Poker Stars and represents the company on an official scale. While poker has been the primary interest of Hershiser, he has also played very competitively at blackjack. As a card player, Orel has been playing professionally since 2006. He competed admirably in the World Series of Blackjack and also reached the quarterfinals of the NBC Heads-Up Poker Championship before being defeated by Andy Bloch.
Floyd Mayweather is known as a fierce competitor in the boxing ring, but he also packs a knockout punch at the blackjack table. “Money” Mayweather is a highly skilled blackjack player who can often be found at the high-limit tables of Las Vegas.
LeBron James has setup his own blackjack tournaments and regularly hits the tables in Las Vegas. Just like in basketball, King James likes to play big at the blackjack table. He is known for betting $500 per hand and those who have watched him play the game of blackjack are quick to point out that James knows the game and knows it very well.
Adam Levine is most famous as the founder and frontman of the rock band Maroon 5 and as a host of NBC’s The Voice, but he is very skilled at blackjack and can often be found playing when he is away from his rock star duties. Whenever he plays blackjack Levine never consumes alcohol and only drinks water. It is obvious that Adam knows alcohol can be a blackjack player’s worst enemy.
WHY CELEBRITIES LIKE TO PLAY BLACKJACK
Just because celebrities make their living in the public eye doesn’t mean they are any different from you and I. They are just regular people who like to have a good time and are susceptible to the same gambling urges as anyone else. Playing blackjack gives them a way to kick back and enjoy themselves for a little while.
Of course, celebrities have the one thing that makes playing blackjack a lot of fun. They have money to spend on the game. A celebrity can sit down to play blackjack and bet $1000 on each hand without breaking a sweat. As a result, they often win more than the average blackjack player. They can lose more, too, and this has been a problem for many celebrities who allowed their blackjack playing to become an addiction.
The most famous example of this might be golfer John Daly. Daly was unquestionably the greatest golfer of his era until he ruined his career because of his excesses. A notorious gambler, Daly didn’t just play blackjack. He bet on everything you can imagine from horseracing at Oaklawn Park to blowing thousands of dollars on slot machines. John Daly proves that there is a big difference between a serious blackjack player and someone who plays for the gambling thrill.
Of course, most celebrities don’t take blackjack as seriously as a professional card counter. They aren’t trying to make a living playing the game. If they lose, most of them just chalk it up to an evening on the town and having a good time.
Don’t be surprised if you spot a celebrity or two on your next visit to Las Vegas or Atlantic City. If you do, remember to be kind and respectful of their privacy.