LAS VEGAS — Each summer, actors and athletes who are stars in their own right compete alongside professional gamblers and wannabes for the world’s biggest poker prize.
This week, sitcom star Ray Romano and comedian Kevin Pollak are among the glitterati donning caps and ear buds at the World Series of Poker at the Rio hotel-casino off the Las Vegas Strip.
The $10,000 buy-in, no-limit Texas Hold ‘em main event started Saturday and runs through July 15, when the field will be cut to a final nine. Play then pauses until November, when competition at the final table airs live on ESPN.
Entries are slightly down this year, with 6,352 players from 83 nations anteing up. The winner takes home $8.4 million and a gold-diamond-drenched bracelet — the Super Bowl ring of gambling.
Players trickled in Tuesday for the 44th annual main event dressed in tracksuits and T-shirts, sporting baseball caps and looking bleary-eyed in the oppressive afternoon sun.
Inside, they played in silence at closely clustered tables, where game-day cologne scented the air (women constitute about 5 percent of entrants). Hundreds of stacks of clicking chips sounded like locusts.
Wearing a black cap, Romano chatted with eight-time bracelet winner Eric Seidel about his days at the Comedy Cellar and his upcoming shows at the Mirage casino as a steady stream of chips flowed from around the table into the professional’s stacks.
The comic said he was learning from Seidel’s patient style, and hoping to stay in the game for as long as possible.
“When I want to do something that I suck at but I’m obsessed with, it’s golf for 11 months out of the year.
So I like to switch it up,” he said. “Believe me, when I bust out, it’s as devastating to me as everyone else,” he said.