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TV, Cinema, Poker – A long conversation with Jennifer Tilly

An emblematic actress of movies such as Bound or Chucky, a familiar face of poker shows, WSOP Ladies 2005 champion and incidentally Phil Laak‘s companion – Jennifer Tilly wears too many hats for just a short interview, so our reporter Gaëlle Jaudon devoted a very long one to her.

Jennifer Tilly

Somuchpoker (SMP): First question – How did you make your way into the poker world? Has it always been a passion for you?

Jennifer Tilly (J.T): I grew up in the sixties, and we didn’t have television. We had a lot of books, and every Friday night we would play cards. I always loved cards. We would play all these games, but never poker, which is weird because it’s a great American past time. But I’m Canadian, so maybe that’s why! When I moved to Hollywood, I had a boyfriend who was a poker player. I was really competitive, and I wanted to play at his Monday night games. He taught me, but, unfortunately, I only got invited to that game once. It was more a sort of guys night out, so they didn’t really want any girls there! In fact, my dad was a poker player too, but I never really realized that until he passed away. Apparently, he had a poker problem. He gave me this game called the World Series of Poker. It was a video game, and he used to play it obsessively for years, and I won the video game!

I started dating Phil Laak at that moment. I met him at a tournament. I was pretty obsessed with poker too! When I won the video game, Phil told me that it didn’t mean I was a good player, it just meant that I’d figured out the algorithms of the game. I played it more and won the game a few times. There was a virtual gold bracelet on the screen, and I had a notebook where I wrote all the things I wanted to do, like become a movie star, become a millionaire, travel the world, and I also wrote “go to the real WSOP and win a real bracelet”. Luckily, the first time I went to the WSOP, I won a bracelet in the ladies event. It seemed like it was very easy to achieve my dreams, but after that I tried to win another one, and I realized how difficult it is; everything has to go on your way. I always say poker is 70% skills and 30% luck, but that 30% can really kill you! So I’m pretty obsessive with poker, and I think it’s genetic. I really think you can have genetic markers for gambling addiction, and it goes way back in my family.

SMP: Like you say, it can be a dangerous path.

J.T: I feel like I have the propensity to be very obsessive, so I have to really watch it. Above all, I think it’s very important that a lot of professional players know this. You have to win more than you lose. It’s like a snowball rolling down the hill when you play; sometimes you can just go crazy. I used to play high stakes home games all the time around Hollywood. You can lose and win a lot of money, and I was playing like 4 times a week. You can start at like 8 o’clock, and the next day you’re still there at 2pm. I was playing with people who were up a million at 3 am and down half a million at noon the next day. I realized that I don’t want that kind of stress in my life. Poker is supposed to enhance my life. I realized that when I win at poker, I’m happy for like a week, but when I lose, I’m unhappy for about a month. Now I just play a lot of tournaments. I like to play poker on television, and once in a while I’ll go to a home game; it’s a special treat. I’m not like a full-time degenerate anymore! Actually, there is a book that just came out called He Played for His Wife and Other Stories. It’s a bunch of real poker stories from people like Anthony Holden, Barny Boatman, Neil Pearson, Al Alvarez, and others (including me). My story is a bit fictionalized, but it’s basically about that girl from Hollywood who plays crazy home games. Those home games are kind of like the Molly’s Game, with the massage girls in high heels, fortunes pushed across the tables, champagne, etc.—you know, the very degenerate underground sort of life.

SMP: You’ve been with Phil Laak for more than 10 years now. Longevity in a couple is already complicated, and it can be even more so in a poker couple, so what is your secret?

J.T: Yeah, it’s been like 15 years now. One of the things is we try not to be playing at the same table. When we register at the tournament, we go to the registration together to say we don’t want to be at the same table. Once in a while it’s unavoidable, or when the tables break down, we can end up at the same table, and it really feels uncomfortable. I remember one time we were both in a hand, and a full house came on the river, and Phil went all in to imply he had a better full house than what was on the board. I called because I know him, and everyone at the table yelled at him saying how could you do that to your girlfriend! But every time we’re at the same table, he goes after me harder than he would do usually because he doesn’t want anybody to say he’s playing softer with me. It’s always weird, because even if we play harder to each other, people always think we try to play softer. We try not to talk about poker anymore like in the beginning. It used to be a lot, and he’s a very, very tough teacher. Phil is very rough on me. Let’s say I win a tournament or play on TV, he hardly ever says I played great! He’ll go to the one hand that I misplayed. He’s very honest, and he wants me to get better. So after a few years, I know I’m not the greatest player, but it’s hard to have your boyfriend correcting your play all the time, so we just learned not to talk too much about poker. We like to watch poker, but we try to stay out of each other’s way.

Phil has a style. He’s very GTO, like a robot with a lot of data in his mind, and I have my style. I’m more of a feel. I’m more psychic and intuitive, and a lot of times I feel how the game swings. I feel that’s why so many love cards. Cards can be very mystical; people have hands they love most and things like that, even if there is nothing mathematical in that. I know a lot of pros laugh at that! I think I’m more “loosy goosy” than him because I love to gamble. Sometimes I play a hand that is not really GTO because I just feel that I have more ability to get paid off, like my favorite hand was 23 suited, which I don’t really play anymore, but I just like to have fun when I play poker, and I can be very gambly. That’s the big difference between us, so sometimes when he tries to criticize my play now, I just tell him to let me play my style! All poker couples, I think, after a while just learn how to discuss hands with friends other than your partner because it’s too personal. I think Phil was feeling responsible because he was the beginning of my poker education. I also like to read books and learn from some poker websites, like Poker Central and others. I like to review the hands and listen to the commentaries, like Jesse May, who is brilliant. I think this a trend in poker now; real poker fans like to watch every hand to see the overflow of the game.

SMP: Yeah, about that – you participated in all of the biggest poker back in the days, the Big Game, Poker After Dark, etc., and you’re back now on poker shows with Poker Go, playing cash games on Friday Night Poker. Do you have a different approach to the game now? Did something change?

J.T: I think I used to be more of an ABC player, and I used to think that nobody was ever bluffing. It never occurred to me that people would make these crazy raises and plays without actually having anything. I think that now my game is…let’s say a little more dangerous. If someone was 4-betting me when I had pocket queens 10 years ago, it just meant to me that I should have aces! Now, I have a more elaborate way of thinking, where I can also raise and understand the spots. Sometimes it’s also a bit too much; now I think that everybody is bluffing! I think I should find the perfect balance somewhere in between. Also, I used to always raise when I had a big hand and always call with medium hands, and I realized I was too predictable, so now I raise a lot on a variety of hands and change my plays. I just think you have to constantly be adjusting your game, because you can have wrong perceptions when you start playing with someone and you need to adapt. That’s the great thing about poker. you just never stop thinking, and it’s also a social game. Whether you like the people at your table or not, you always learn a lot by interacting with other people. I really love playing poker on TV because I think it’s the best of my both worlds, being an actress and a player. I love to play poker, and I love being on TV, so it’s perfect!

A lot of times you hear the pros, especially in home games situations, say how much they want to play against fish and rich businessmen. I’m definitely not that way. I want to play against the very best! I feel like it’s a challenge; it’s such a thrill. The first time I was on Poker After Dark, it was a $250K buy-in, and they told me it was supposed to be with rich businessmen. It was one of the first shows. I showed up, and I saw Doyle Brunson, Phil Ivey, Johnny Chan, Antonio Esfandiari, and Jean-Robert Bellande! Everybody at the table was a genius or better than me! I sat down anyway. I thought, everybody is going to watch this; it’s going to be great! So when it comes to TV shows, I’m not necessarily looking for a game I can beat. I’m looking for a game that is going to be entertaining, even if I lose. With Esfandiari, for some reason I can never get the better of him. He always applies pressure to me; he has this monumental ability to suck out on me. Even recently, there was a hand when I had the top set and a 73% of winning in a massive pot, and he hit his double gutter. In a weird way I didn’t mind it, because I just thought it was good for television. I’m going to watch a lot of videos of him playing to see if I can get a tell on him, because this winning streak can’t last forever! The thing is, I’m really competitive if somebody beats me. Recently, I played with Jason Mercier in Poker Night in America, and he’s actually very funny and very sharp, and I can’t wait to play with him again even if he takes me for a lot of money! I want to get it back, and I think it’s very invigorating. That’s also why I played in a lot of shows in England—the Party Poker show and the Premier League—which I loved. The English are really good at needling other players! After Black Friday all the shows shut down, but today it’s coming back, and it’s really great for me. I love to play poker on television!

SMP: Concerning your career as an actress, you were already a famous actress when you started playing poker. Did you ever think your career as a player was maybe taking too much time away from your acting career?

J.T: Maybe a little bit. The thing is, when I met Phil, I became very obsessed with poker, but also, after a certain age, usually after 40 years old, the scenarios stop coming in Hollywood. All the actresses I came up with, Oscar-winning actresses like Renee Zellweger, Geena Davis, Rosanna Arquette, a lot of them don’t work anymore. The parts that I get are not that interesting to me, and I’m really fortunate now that I don’t have to work for a living. Before, I used to do a lot of roles so I could pay the bills, and I don’t have to do that anymore. I’d rather play poker. I feel like if I didn’t have poker perhaps I would be working harder on my acting career, but a lot of the parts today for women are on television, and I don’t really want to work on a series; it just ties you down too much. Obviously, if Scorsese came and offered me a part, I would say yes, but that’s not happening! I’ve done a lot of Broadway plays, and every few years I do a Chucky movie, but I’m just happy with the way of my life is going right now. I never feel that there will be a time in my life when I didn’t want to be an actress, but I kind of feel that I’ve done that. When I pass a movie set, sometimes I feel bad for them, going there at 5am, waiting in a chair for hours, eating a cold breakfast burrito because you don’t want to destroy the makeup, trying to sleep in your costume between shots, etc. In a weird way, I just don’t miss it! I did Modern Family a couple times, and I had a great time, but at the end of the week I was happy to be done! I felt sorry for the other actresses who had to come back on Monday. I know it sounds really weird to feel sorry for an award-winning show that makes millions of dollars, but I just felt it was not what I wanted to do. I’ll probably do more acting sometime in the future, but right now I’m happy. I travel a lot.

A couple of years ago, my ex-husband, who I was really close to, passed away, and I lost my mom too a year and a half ago, and ever since then I’ve been thinking about how much time I have left. I used to think my career was the most important thing, and now I realize it’s being with people you love, taking care of my family. Now I feel I have a better balance between my professional life and my personal life. Phil is always saying how important it is to be around people you love, and for me, it was important to win awards and have the admiration of people I didn’t know! I agree with him now.

SMP: You talked about the Chucky movies as one of your most famous roles. There is a real community around those movies with many fans. The Cult of Chucky came out last year. How does it feel to be forever associated with a role like that?

J.T: It’s really funny because I’ve done so many great movies. I got nominated at the Academy Awards for Bullets over Broadway from Woody Allen, I played with Jim Carrey in Liar, Liar, etc., but everybody knows me for Chucky! It’s weird because it has such a great fan base, and I love my Chucky fans. Even in some small countries, when people only know one word in English, they tell me “Chucky!”.  It feels really good. I had no idea about that subculture until I got on social media. I feel like I’m part of something that is really big, and at the beginning, I wanted people to remember me as a brilliant actress and an Academy Award nominee, but I realized that 9 times out of 10, Chucky is the movie people recognize me for when they see me. It’s good to be loved and to be part of something that is so huge. They are fans forever; it’s crazy! I have made four Chucky movies, and Tiffany, the character I play, is very iconic. We should start filming a Chucky television series soon. I’m going to keep doing it!

SMP: As a celebrity, do you ever feel that people play differently with you at a poker table?

J.T: I think that they do, yes. I think people underestimate me, in fact. People saw some videos online where I misplayed a hand, and they think I’m a bad poker player, which is actually wrong. I think they play differently with me, and that’s also why I’m welcomed in all the home games. They don’t see me as a poker pro; they see me as the Chucky girl and also as a woman. I think they have a misconception that women play passively. But, the thing is, I realized I was making that mistake myself toward other women. I played against the French Canadian pro, Laurence Grondin. I didn’t know her the first time I played with her, and I just thought she was connecting all the hands and she had great hands all the time because she was very active at the table, but when I saw the replay on TV, I realized she was bluffing like a barracuda! Everybody at the table thought that too, and even me, as a woman, misjudged her and thought she was lucky! She is just a very good player! But I really like being a woman at the table. Sometimes they can have a very salty language, and I don’t want them not to tell their gross funny stories because I’m here. I feel that when I’m at the table, I’m pretty much one of the guys, and that’s cool! On television I understand it’s a visual show, and I want the show to be good, so I like to play on the stereotypes around me. I think it’s fun to play the clueless movie star, with big cleavage and all of that stuff. But when I’m playing a tournament or when I’m at the WSOP, I almost always wear a hat, sunglasses, and very comfortable clothes! It’s so exhausting when you play for 12 hours straight, people expect me to be like I’m on TV, but they can get really surprised! On TV I just want to give a good show and make people watch it.

SMP: The movie industry had many scandals recently and started the Me Too movement, and poker is also a very masculine industry with few women. You are able to compare both worlds, so where do you think you had to fight the most to be respected?

J.T: It’s really funny because when all these stories started to come out about Harvey Weinstein and other people, I was still surprised! I heard whispers, but, in fact, I always thought the casting couch didn’t exist. I always thought, who would jeopardize a multi-million dollar movie by putting somebody as the main role who was sleeping for it. I thought maybe it happened for very small roles—the chick who had 5 lines or whatever—but never on a magnitude like that, and black baling people who would not succumb to their advances! I was really shocked and horrified, and I think I was pretty naïve. When I looked back in my mind, I realized I was possibly too naïve to understand when people where coming on to me. I remember a couple of implicit incidents when I thought guys were acting weird to me! Once, I went home from the studio, and I cried and said to my manager that the guy was acting really weird talking about his house in Malibu, etc. I think my manager was embarrassed because it seems he knew what was going on! Now, I realize that the guy was implying that if I went out with him I could have the role. But I never really had any problem. And I never auditioned for a Miramax movie, which I think was strange. In the 90s, everybody wanted to be in a Harvey Weinstein movie. In the poker world, I wouldn’t say there is no sexual harassment going on, but I like when the players treat me like I’m just another guy and don’t use any filter when they talk. Also, I think a part of it is because I’m older. Maybe if I was 20/30 years old in poker, more of a dating age, perhaps I would have some problems. But I’ve been dating Phil for 15 years, so I’m definitely not a newby poker girl that the guys are going to try to sleep with! For the most part, poker players are really cool, smart people; they live outside the blocks and have their own kind of culture. I really enjoy being around that. I know a lot of them are hanging out with strippers and party girls, but you know it’s hard to build a serious relationship when you’re travelling all the time. Those who have a serious partner are the lucky ones. It’s also a lonely life; it’s hard for them to find girls!

Jennifer Tilly and Phil Laak

SMP: You’ve had many highlights in your life. Which are you the most proud of—being nominated for an Oscar or winning a WSOP bracelet?

J.T: I think they’re both pretty equal. Going to the Oscars and being nominated for such a prestigious film was the very pinnacle. It was one of my dreams. I’m also very proud of my WSOP bracelet; I beat out over 600 women to win it. I feel it was a huge accomplishment. It was a very strong feeling for both. In the future I would love to have other Oscar nominations and also even more bracelets! Also, I think people have some misconceptions about me winning my bracelet, saying I just got lucky once, but when you look at my Hendon Mob, I have deep finishes in a lot of tournaments. I won the Bellagio 5K event, and I have many cashes at the WSOP. I’m in the top 30 on the women’s all-time money list, and I’m very proud of that. Many people saw me misplay one hand on TV and think I’m a bad player. I think I don’t have the respect that I should have if I was just a woman player and not an actress poker player, and a lot of players don’t have all the results that I have. But I also think a lot of that is also because of me. I used to always make jokes on TV, saying I wasn’t a good player and that I was the fish of the table. Then, I realized that, in fact, it shaped the way that people look at me. That very famous hand against Phil Ivey, when I said I didn’t bet on the river because I was scared he could have pocket kings, I said it to be funny, and people thought I was serious. But it was a sit-n-go with only one winner. I was pretty sure I was the winner of the hand, but I didn’t want to risk seeing him all-in. Now I wouldn’t play it that way, but it was 14 years ago, and everybody remembers it because of that joke that I made. Sometimes I feel I’m my own worst enemy in the way I present myself! With the way I’m dressing to play on TV shows, I know I’m maybe not doing myself a favor because it gives the people the perception that I’m not a serious player, but it’s just me. It amuses me to go play and to answer the expectations.

SMP: Yeah, actually that was one of my questions. You always seem really happy and colorful, with an extravagant personality, so my question is what makes Jennifer Tilly angry?

J.T: Well, I really love poker and being on TV, so for the most part, I’m very happy to be on poker shows. But what makes me angry? I do get angry sometimes. I have to think about that. It doesn’t really make me angry when people put me down in poker; it makes me feel bad, it hurts my feelings. I think what makes me angry is, in life, when I perceive there is a big injustice somewhere. If I feel something is not fair and somebody is getting away with something that makes me angry. A few times when I snapped it was because something was grossly unfair. If a vile person is lying or taking advantage of somebody, I can get really mad. I don’t like to see when people try to cheat somebody or take advantage of weaker people. The great thing about being in the poker world—as I said I used to be very naïve—is that I became more street smart and savvy. I used to believe what everybody was telling me, because it never occurred to me that someone would lie to me, as I was never lying myself! It kind of helped me in life and also in my poker game. In the poker world, there is a lot of hustling that goes around and a lot of degenerates. For the most part, poker players are really great and funny people, but when there is money involved, it always attracts some dark elements. So it’s a good thing that I’m not as naïve anymore. When I see someone trying to take advantage of a naïve person, I think that’s what makes me really angry because it reminds me of how I used to be.

SMP: You’ve definitely met a lot of funny and original personalities through your life. Where did you meet the craziest people, in poker or in the movie industry?

J.T: In show business, I’ve met some brilliantly funny people, like Jim Carrey, and a lot of comedians who are very dark and funny. But, I think there are more personalities in poker, because in the movie business people are very concerned about what other people think of them, while in the poker world the players don’t have to conform. They can just come to the table as they are. I remember in Monte Carlo people were showing up at the casino in their pajamas! They really don’t care at all. I think that’s the thing. There are characters who are really brilliant and smart and goofy and fun, but they don’t even realize how funny and strange this is; it’s just how they live their life. They are never looking around thinking they have to fit in. Actors think they have to present a certain image that can get them the next role. Players can do whatever they want, whenever they want, and say whatever they want; that’s why I found it very refreshing when I got into the poker world. Guys can play on TV and get very angry at each other, when, in the movies, there are actors who hate each other, but when you see them on the talk shows, they compliment each other; its’ kind of phony baloney. In the poker world, when people don’t like someone, they let it to be known. So I would say the real genuine characters are in the gambling world. I really love being around Phil and his friends; they’re betting and gambling about everything, just not giving a shit about what people think, and I think that’s the real spirit of the poker world.

SMP: If you could go back in time and change some decisions you made in your career what would you change?

J.T: In my acting career, I was always saying, “I’m not the girl next door; I’m the girl next door to the girl next door,” and that’s some self-depreciating talk that I’m trying not to do anymore. I feel that what you put out there is what you get back, and I would always say, I’m never the lead, I’m never the girlfriend. I’m the wacky neighbor, I’m the psycho baby-sitter, the goofy best friend, etc. So that’s how I saw myself, and now I look back at my career, and I think why could I not be the leading lady? I was so beautiful and such a good actress, but I tried to create a thing that I was the goofy actress because I was insecure. I never thought I was beautiful. Maybe because of the way we grew up—we were hippies, we never had TV, etc., and I always thought I was this weirdo girl. I realized later I was talented, and I think I would change that if I were back in my career. Also, when I got my Oscar nomination, I wish I had stayed with my agent. But, you know how it is; you’ve struggled all your life and nobody wants you, and then all of the sudden the biggest agency knocks on the door saying they want to represent you, and I went with them. But they just love to sign many people, and it was too big of an agency. Nobody worked for me for a year, and then there were a bunch of new Oscar nominees the next year. So I kind of lost my momentum, and it’s hard to get back when you don’t have a hit movie.

In my poker career, I also wish I hadn’t been so self-deprecating. There are people in the poker world, like Phil Hellmuth, or Luke Schwartz now, who are saying they are great players, they’re the best, etc. People make fun of that, but they kind of buy in to what the guy is projecting. Many players act like that. People say, ok he’s conceited, but he’s a great player! Where do they hear that? From the guy! So, I also think that the reason people think I’m not a good player is coming from me trying to be humble, me always saying they were better than me and that I was the fish of the table. I think overall in my life that’s the one thing that I wish I could change. Whatever you say you are, that’s what people accept you as, so I wish the way I played myself in my life was more as my own publicist, as opposed to being the person saying, “oh, she’s not so great.” In poker, you can notice, one person will win one tournament and then they go on the greatest year of their life, with many deep runs and winnings. Then, they don’t win anything for a very long time. It’s because lots of time they show this extreme self-confidence at the table and poker is a very psychological game; they seem powerful. When you have a lot of confidence, you can have other people make bad decisions. Now I’m trying to have more confidence in my acting abilities and also in my poker abilities. That’s my New Year resolution for 2019!

SMP: As you said, you love to be on the screen, and you’ve been in the spotlight most of your life, but has it been difficult sometimes?

J.T: Sometimes it’s really hard. When I started to have some fame, I loved it, but it was a completely different world back then. I used to go out, and the designers would give me outfits, and I used to buy the tabloids to see if my picture was there. But I was really young, and all of that was really exciting to me. Now, sometimes it’s a bit much. You get to a certain age—like we’re all getting older—you’ve spent 10 hours on a plane, and TMZ is there. You can’t wait to get home and shower, and all of the sudden you have cameras in your face taking terrible pictures! Now, when I go to an event, a lot of times I skip the red carpet. I don’t like to have my picture taken as much as before and answer all those questions. Now, the paparazzi and TMZ are everywhere. And now a lot of the people taking pictures or asking for autographs aren’t fans; they’re professionals. In their defense, there are a lot of Chucky fans, and they sell them on ebay. I’m known as somebody who signs a lot of pictures because I think that’s a crappy way to make a living. You wait for hours for somebody to come out, and maybe they only sign one or two, and then you sell them for $30 or whatever. I feel pity for them; it’s a terrible job. But it’s also exhausting, and they want to take selfies too, and you know you’re going to look horrible. They post it, and you look 10 years older in a terrible light! You like to be famous when you want to be famous, when you dress up well to go to a ceremony, you have the perfect make up, etc. That’s when you like to have your picture taken! But today it can be any time, when you’re just doing your normal life, and it can be very embarrassing! People don’t know that I’m actually very shy, but if people come to me asking for a picture I’ll always give them a picture, even if it’s a bad time. Once, I wanted to have a picture with a famous person and she wasn’t really nice to me, so I feel taking a picture is just a moment to me, but for someone it might be a big moment. They might be the biggest fan, so I try to always be nice to people. I’m very lucky to have fans. It’s such a privilege that people do like what you do, so even if I look horrible, I always say yes.

SMP: You’ve given numerous interviews in the poker media. What is the question people ask you a lot and that you don’t want to hear anymore? Sorry if I asked!

J.T: I really don’t like people talking about the hand with Patrick Antonius. I mean it happened 15 years ago, and I checked the full house on the river, and I made that joke. I’ve seen people make really bad mistakes too. Phil Ivey folded a flush, etc., but people don’t harp on them like they do with me. I’m really thinking, ok everybody’s made at least one really bad mistake in a hand throughout their career, so why can’t we just all move on? I just don’t understand why people can’t stop harping on this hand. For a while, on Twitter, I would just block people who came up to me with that hand, but now I think you just have to roll with the punches. So, I think that’s the thing I don’t like, when people keep asking me questions about that. Sometimes they bring it up jokingly; yes, it’s funny, but when you’ve heard it like 5000 times over the last 15 years, I don’t think it’s that interesting anymore.

SMP: What are your next projects? In acting and poker?

J.T: My next project is that Chucky television series, and I’m doing a bunch of sit-n-goes with Poker After Dark. Also, I’ll do a cash game show with Antonio Esfiandiari after that. Right now, my total poker earning are just under $700 million, so before the end of the year I want to bump it up to pass that mark! It always sounds better to say over a million dollars of tournament winnings than under! So I’ll do a bunch of tournaments. I also really enjoyed writing those short stories for the book, and I would love to write a poker novel or a poker screen play, because I don’t like when people make poker movies and they don’t know anything about poker. Like with Molly’s Game, it was a good movie, but there were so many things that were wrong with the poker scenes. The poker community was like, who is the poker advisor?! We found out who it was, and when I told him, you can’t raise or bet like that, he just said he didn’t care about the rules and just tried to make a good movie! I feel that it’s very disrespectful for the game; you can’t make a good movie about the game if you don’t know the rules. It’s disrespectful for people who love that game, and it happens all the time in poker movies. Like, they’ll use plastic chips at the table, like is your budget so low that you have to use chips from Wal-Mart that 15-year-olds would play with at a party? Or, in the James Bond movie, it was ridiculous; a person had a flush, another one a full house, and then someone had the higher flush, and then the street flush, etc. The only explanation is that everybody was cheating! And when James Bond pushed all in, in a really ridiculous way, totally splashed the pot, like he was supposed to be the classiest man in the world, nobody on the set told him how to play like a pro?

I think there is room for a good poker movie. I have to say that the movie Vincent Van Patten made this year, Walk to Vegas, was pretty good, but I have a lot of ideas, and I would love to make a great poker movie. I’m really into the culture of poker, and I think I’m a good writer. I’ve just been lazy! If I could sit down for hours, I feel I could do a really good novel or screen play. That’s my plan for the next year!

SMP: And what does your everyday life look like?

J.T: Well, I travel a lot. I was in Vegas, New York, Napa Valley, etc. But, generally, the happiest days are at home, in Los Angeles. I usually wake up, and Phil makes really good waffles; that’s his home recipe. I do stuff on the computer. Usually, I have dinner with friends in the evening. I like to watch a lot of poker videos or organize my next travels. I’m always travelling. I still have like 5 suitcases right now that I need to unpack! A lot of times I come back home, drop the suitcase, and just pack another one; eventually, I run out of clothes! Usually, the average days are just really happy days, like a normal person Sunday, good breakfast, some reading, watching some TV, hanging out with friends, some exercise, etc. That’s the best kind of day. But a lot of times we’re travelling to some poker tournaments, and we stay at the hotel, so it’s intensive weeks of poker, going from one tournament to another one. We have a place in Vegas too, but the best days are at home in LA. We have a beautiful garden, and we love to chill with our friends!


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