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When I Was A Donk – Jennifer Tilly

by Julio Rodriguez |  Published: Mar 29, 2017

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Jennifer TillyIn this series, Card Player asks top pros to rewind back to their humble beginnings and provide insights regarding the mistakes, leaks, and deficiencies that they had to overcome in order to improve their games.

Jennifer Tilly is best known for being an Academy Award-nominated actress, starring in films such as Bullets Over Broadway, Bound, Liar Liar, Monsters Inc. and Bride of Chucky, but she’s also transformed herself into a fixture on the live tournament circuit.

Tilly even owns a World Series of Poker bracelet, taking down the ladies event back in 2005 for the $158,625 first-place prize. The spouse of high-stakes poker pro Phil Laak also won a preliminary event at the 2010 Bellagio Cup VI for $124,455 and has numerous deep runs in World Poker Tour events.

Here, Tilly talks about her earliest televised poker appearance.

When you start out, you really don’t understand how bad you are at poker. You play a hand, you win, and it seems easy. I was on a WPT Hollywood Home Game episode and that was the first time I met people like Daniel Negreanu and Jennifer Harman. This was before the poker boom, and they were considered the poker tutors for the celebrities.

I had been playing in our home game for 10 to 15 years, so I already thought I was pretty good. I had no idea just how much I had left to learn. Back then, I didn’t even understand the concept of kickers. I would see Q-3, and my brain would only focus on the fact that I had a queen in my hand, so that must be pretty good. If I had an ace, I may as well have had the nuts.

I actually made it pretty deep in this little sit-n-go, just because I was so aggressive. I was also over confident, just because I didn’t know any better, and it’s always hard to play against someone like that.

James Woods was in that game, and went out before me. When I ran into him weeks later, he was able to talk percentages, and strategy and also he was able to recall almost every decision he made on every street. It was all nonsense to me at the time. I was all about the results, and the result was that I lasted longer than he did.

Looking back at that performance with what I know now, it’s a little embarrassing. I think Phil [Laak] and I managed to buy all of the copies so it might be hard to find. (laughing) Phil was really the reason I started to really dive into the strategy of poker.

Poker is just like life I think. When you are super young, you think you know everything. The longer you go, the more you realize you know nothing. And if I ever feel like I’m starting to get really good at poker, I can just go on the internet and read all the comments telling me the opposite.