Showbiz antes up

Hollywood players show off their game face

TV’s successful gamble on poker shows has spilled over into Hollywood’s social circuit, where industryites regularly ante up for card games.

Besides Ben Affleck — the current poster child for showbiz gamblers and recent winner of the California State Poker Championship — industry card sharks cut across the creative ranks, with execs, agents and showrunners among the players.

Gambling was the theme at Artisan’s last hurrah Christmas party before Lion’s Gate devoured it.

Revolution Studio’s Joe Roth, CFO Rob Moore, Todd Garner and Suzanne Todd are all avid players. At a recent Malibu birthday bash for Todd’s husband, helmer Doug Aarniokoski, the party had all the requisite trappings with valet, caterers and a chef.

The presence of two card tables and a certified dealer in a bowtie and vest took some guests by surprise. Top three winners at the beginners table took home a set of gleaming aluminum-encased poker sets.

Mark Weinstock, senior VP of marketing for TriStar Pictures, has been playing since the age of 10.

“As the Travel Channel’s slogan goes, poker takes ‘A Minute to Learn, A Lifetime to Master’,” he said. Weinstock plays four times a month with different groups. “Three out of these four groups are in the entertainment business,” he added.

Todd Hoffman, an agent at Broder-Webb-Chervin-Silberman, has been playing with fellow USC film school grads for the past 10 years.

“It’s a fun way to get together with friends, get rid of stress and make money on the side,” he said. “If you have a bad night, you can leave feeling pretty spanked.”

His group meets once a month and goes to Las Vegas once a year. The tradition runs in his family: His father has been playing poker for the past 30 years.

More women have been jumping into the game too.

Hoffman’s group, which includes “ER” showrunner Jack Orman, is comprised of six to nine friends among which at least three are women.

But lest we think this is all about personal gain (as if these execs and celebs needed more moolah), many of them have played for charity.

Revolution hosted a poker benefit for the Variety Children’s Club. Todd, whose Team Todd shingle is based at Revolution, recently attended a charity poker event hosted by the Alliance for Children’s Rights with her husband. Bravo’s recent Celebrity Poker Showdown featured actress Mimi Rogers playing against celebrity grill chef Bobby Flay on behalf of their favorite charities.

“Hollywood is a high risk game so it’s natural for its executives to gravitate toward the game,” said Michael Nozik of Serenade Films, who occasionally plays poker. “It’s good to feel that knot in your stomach once in a while.”

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