WPT Celebrity Invitational Starts Saturday

In the ever-expanding poker world, pros have become their own kind of celebrities, but in the real world few if any players have gained such a status among non-poker fans. That’s why events like the World Poker Tour’s Celebrity Invitational are so exciting. Not only does it expose a whole new audience to the game we love, but it gives both card players and everyday folk a chance to watch their idols shuffle up and face off.

On Saturday, February 19, a field of 500 – made up of a motley crew of true players, sports stars, TV celebrities, artists and other notable names – will take to the tables at the Commerce Casino in Los Angeles for the 9th Annual WPT Celebrity Invitational. The WPT has partnered with the Chrysalis charity for the second year running. The tournament is invitation-only and has no buy-in, essentially making it the biggest and most prestigious live freeroll in the world. It does offer a $200,000 prize pool, and players can contribute to the charitable proceeds by purchasing a $200 rebuy before the first break.

Celebrity Invitational competitors will compete through the weekend, then the last six players will reconvene on March 2 for a televised final table. The winner will receive a $25,000 + $500 entry for the 2011 WPT Championship. Since the 19th Annual L.A. Poker Classic has been running for weeks now, you can bet that there will be plenty of recognizable poker faces at the charity event, but who’s on the regular celebrity roster?

As always, the WPT has assembled an eclectic group of celebrity contestants. Leading the way is Ante Up For Africa co-founder Don Cheadle. Also on board is baseball legend Jose Canseco, actor Donnie Wahlberg, UFC legend Randy Couture, pop group Boyz II Men and actress-turned-poker-player Jennifer Tilly, just to name a few. Last year at least two celebrities made the final table, and this year we wouldn’t be surprised to see Cheadle or Tilly – both of whom have WSOP experience – fare well against their professional adversaries.

The Celebrity Invitational will no doubt make a nice opener for the WPT’s NL Hold’em Championship which will kick off the following Friday, also at the Commerce Casino. The $10,000 buy-in event is heavily anticipated all year, even more so this year since early eliminations will have a second shot at a big payout with the new $25,000 buy-in High Roller event scheduled for February 27.

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