Welcome to the premier of the third season of Celebrity Poker Showdown. Before we get started, I have a question for you: what in the name of all things holy are you doing here? Playing poker can be a very enjoyable way to spend time. I’ll even go so far as to admit that watching someone play poker can, on occasion, provide a certain measure of entertainment. But you people are reading about someone watching someone playing poker! Unless you’re related to me and reading this as a show of support, doing research for the Bravo network, or are being held by a demented captor that forces you to choose between reading about poker or going back into a box in the cellar, you should be doing something else with your time. Personally, I’m willing to bet that somewhere, someone chose The Box anyway.
For those of you still here, I think we should take a moment to set your expectations of me. First, lower them. You will not learn anything about playing Texas Hold‘Em. Nor will you be regaled with detailed descriptions of each hand. You won’t even get cool graphic representations of the cards here. If you want that stuff, you can go to the official CPS site. Yes, they have one. But then, there are sites detailing the rich and sordid history of the Spork, so I doubt this comes as a surprise to any of you. As for my expectations of you, I expect you to know poker terminology, to laugh at my jokes even if you can’t find any, and to shower me with praise, adoration, and gifts. I could use a new television, and nothing says thanks quite like plasma.
Dave Foley is our host. You may remember Dave from “The Kids in the Hall”, or more recently from “News Radio”, which was cancelled (sadly) after the 1999 season. In the five years since then, Dave has undergone a startling physical transformation. Between the graying temples and a patchwork attempt at growing some facial hair, the man resembles a miniature version of Captain Kangaroo.
The showdown is being held at the Palms Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada. Dave introduces the audience to the celebrities that will be participating this week.
First up is Willie Garson. While Willie may be known for his role in “Sex and the City”, his real claim to fame here is that he appeared in the first season of CPS and won his table the first round. It was then that he was given the moniker “Evil Willie.” As with all the celebrities, Willie will be playing to raise money for charity. Willie’s charity is La Casa de la Madres. I have to confess that I didn’t pay attention in my high school Spanish class, but even I can translate this. I just wonder what sort of charity is The House of the Mad Reservations?
Next is the lovely Jennie Garth. Jennie is currently staring in “What I Like About You”, but she will forever be known for her role in “Beverly Hills, 90210.” Ms. Garth will be playing for World Vision, or as Secretly Spanish Willie would call it, Visión Mundial.
Curb Your Enthusiam’s Richard Kind, playing for Project ALS, enters carrying a cup of “coffee” and smoking an unlit cigarette. If anyone needs to curb their enthusiasm, it is the manic Mr. Kind.
Dave Navarro, or as some of us think of him “The lucky SOB married to Carmen Elektra” needs no introduction. Okay, maybe he does. I can assure you that despite the resemblance brought on by his pointy goatee, he is not Satan. In fact, Mr. Navarro wears a crucifix around his neck and boasts another in tattoo form on a forearm. Of course, those could just be part of his disguise. Dave will be playing for The Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation.
The final participant in the evening’s festivities is actor Jerry O’Connell. Jerry currently stars in “Crossing Jordan”, but is probably better known for his work in the TV series “Sliders.” Well, and for his leading role in “Tomcats”, but unlike me, Bravo spares him the embarrassment of revealing this to the audience. Reading is Fundamental is his charity of choice.
Once everyone is seated, Host Dave, greets each of them. To Jennie he says “Very beautiful. Thank you for elevating things.” His comment could have meant that she is a woman of such style and grace that she raises the level of class in the room. But she’s at a table with five men, and this is cable, so we know that’s probably not the case.
Dave introduces us to his co-host “The nice, the smart, the tall” Phil Gordon. Phil is a world class poker player and expert. The two of them will be backstage in the Loser Lounge. Seeing the décor in said lounge, the question of whatever became of the sets from “Tic Tac Dough” and “The Dating Game” finally gets its long awaited answer. Dave tells us that Loser Lounge is not a happy place for the losing players. That may be true, but the cocktail waitress wearing the metallic gold hot-pants with matching bikini top and go-go boots has to brighten the place up a bit. Not that I would have noticed her under normal circumstances, but recapping requires that I delve into the minutia from time to time. For the readers, of course. Ahem.
Crazy Eights Must Be Like Pot
Jerry wins the first pot, which means we’re treated to some Up Close and Personal time with him. He tells us that he’s ready. He’s studied Willy. He wants to beat Jennie. He’s not afraid of Dave Navarro’s cards, but he [is] afraid of Dave Navarro, because he has tattoos all over his body. “If I’m Ghetto Cards, he’s Super Ghetto Cards, ‘cause he’s like Prison Cards. It’s not like they’re scary tattoos or anything, Jerry is just being a wuss. Jerry is here to win. He wants to show the world what his card skills are. Oooh, I can’t wait.
After Richard wins a hand, we get some alone time with him. He tells us that Project ALS is “The charity that has raised millions for what is known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease.” I’m so glad he cleared that up for us, because I’m sure we all thought he was raising money for guys named Al. Richard loves playing cards, but he doesn’t think he’s very good. He despises the show because nobody plays Hi-Low or Seven Stud anymore. “Testicles have gotten larger, to the detriment of weekly poker games.” I don’t even want to know the seating arrangements at his weekly game.
As play continues we pick up interesting little factoids, such as the fact that Jennie’s husband hired a poker coach to help prepare her for the show, and whenever the camera is on Jerry he likes to wink and smile. Okay, so maybe they aren’t so interesting.
Dave Navarro tells us that he wasn’t competitive growing up. It wasn’t until he started playing poker that he became an obsessive-compulsive card player. Good to know; so many kids to today develop those characteristics learning Go Fish. Navarro says that Stud is like Heroine, but Texas Hold’Em is like Crack, and he enjoys the rush. If someone at the table was going to compare poker to drugs, we all knew he would be the one to do it. He shows us that he has all four card suits tattooed on his left forearm “to intimidate the other players.” I think it would be more intimidating if he didn’t have a cheat-sheet showing what hand beats what” on his right forearm. Oh, and if you guessed that Navarro won a hand before this little peek into his world, you’d be right.
Having won a hand, Jennie goes on to tell us how she prepared for the show. She goes straight to the important stuff. She got a manicure, because the most important thing before a tournament is that one’s nails look good. She also consulted with wardrobe people and got her hair colored. I hope her husband didn’t spend too much on this coach we heard so much about earlier. She says she has the edge at the table because she’s the only woman at the table, and men never know what women are thinking. That’s simply not true. At that very moment I knew exactly what she was thinking; “I wish Wayner would call.” Perhaps “exactly” was a bit of an overstatement on my part.
During play, Willie tells Jennie “I thought you were going to call me, but you said 9021-noooo.”
After the commercial breaks, the nice and tall Phil has been giving the viewing audience updates on the chip counts. I’ve not mentioned this before, because, well, I’m being lazy. But this time he says “I am The Human Abacus.” Wasn’t that one of the Mystery Men? Oh, and I’m still not telling you the chip count.
Dave and Phil analyze Jennie’s play. Phil feels that she should force people to pay to see the flop. Dave informs the ladies at home why this is so. “When you let someone see your flop for free, it cheapens you.
Willy becomes the first player to have his personal footage shown before winning a hand. I know you find this as fascinating as I did watching it live on tape. Instead, his lead-in is him showing Dave Navarro his “ second tattoo.” In pen, Willy had drawn the logo for Celebrity Poker Showdown on his right bicep. We’re informed that Mr. Garson wants to lose the nickname “Evil Willy” and instead be called “Kind, gentle Willy. Loving Willy who is taking all my chips.” I hope someone will point out to him that nicknames should be short and preferably fit on one page.
At long last there is some action at the table worth noting. Sort of. Jerry bets $5,200 trying to bluff Navarro out of a pot, and loses to Navarro’s three pair. I know, I know; three pair isn’t a real hand. But he had three different pair to choose from, isn’t that exciting? Sigh. Somebody shoot me.
To prepare for the tournament, Navarro downloaded information from the internet on his opponents to learn their insecurities. I suppose I can understand that, but I still don’t think it explains why he needed to download nude photos of Willie Garson. It’s also doubtful that his wife bought it when he said “Honest baby, I thought Paris Hilton was playing in the showdown!” He probably also had some explaining to do for saying of Jennie, “Under normal circumstances I would wanna just hammer her.” Yes, he really said that. And yes, I’m so desperate for material that I’m taking his comment completely out of context.
Willy finally shows us his other “tattoo.” Penned on his other bicep is “Carmen.”
Jerry wants to be known as “Champ.” I hope he realizes that in order for that to happen, he needs to win. Is the entire concept of the nickname lost on celebrities?
During one hand, Navarro raises with enough authority for Willie to comment “You have some hideous pair of something great.” Host Dave hopes Willie is talking cards.
Will Somebody Lose? Please?
An hour into the show, and nobody has been eliminated. For those of you dying to know, the chip count at this point was:
Loving Willy who is taking all my chips: $4,400
In an effort to speed this train wreck of a recap along, I’d like you all to imagine the players in fast-motion with piano music, Keystone Cops style. And here we go…
Jennie eliminated Jerry with a pair of Jacks. Champ settled in on a couch in Loser’s Lounge and promptly asked if they could change the channel so he could watch Queer Eye.
Willy was eliminated by Richard. He joined Jerry on the couch, which for some reason is decorated with large, furry pillows that resemble Tribbles on steroids.
With such a huge chip lead, Navarro started playing carelessly, staying in far too many hands and prompting Phil to wonder aloud “Is our rock star getting tired?” Host Dave fired back with “Tired of hanging out with people he’s not gonna have sex with. That grates on a rock star after a while.” I like Dave. I wish I could write like he talks. You know, in Canadian.
Jennie faces Navarro in head to head action. She goes all in, and he’ll have to bet $4,700 to call. Richard eggs him on. “Forty-seven hundred. You wipe your ass with that!” Navarro calls and eliminates Jennie. And so we’re down to Dave Navarro and Richard Kind. You can theorize all you want about how they got this far, but I can tell you; neither of them wants a nickname. And that counts for something, darn it.
After commercial, Foley tells the viewers, and by association, you, “We’ve got heads up action between Dave Navarro and Richard Kind… If I was announcing an alien invasion I’d feel more comfortable.” I’d feel more comfortable recapping one, too.
Navarro has a huge chip lead, $43,400 to Richard’s $6,600. Yet after Richard goes all in two hands in a row, he takes the lead from Navarro – only to lose it back again the next hand.
With a four-to-one chip lead, Navarro presses the action, and knocks Richard from the competition with three tens. And thus ends the worst recap of a card game in the history of card game recaps. Mercifully, it is not a long history.
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