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Vince Van Patten: Poker Movies Have 'Missed The Mark'

Van Patten Talks About His Upcoming Gambling Film And Work On World Poker Tour


Vince Van Patten at the Commerce CasinoVince Van Patten, known as the jack-of-all-trades co-anchor of the World Poker Tour alongside Mike Sexton, is currently gearing up for his latest project, a movie focused on the Los Angeles gambling scene.

The 58-year-old former tennis pro, who was once ranked no. 25 in the world and even beat John McEnroe, learned poker from his father, the late actor Dick Van Patten, when he was just 14. In the four decades since, Van Patten has traded in his tennis racket for careers in acting, television hosting and even writing, having co-authored the fictional poker novel, The Picasso Flop.

The man who was once dubbed the “king of the Hollywood home game” was recently in Las Vegas for the WPT Five Diamond World Poker Classic where he was kind enough to talk about his upcoming film.

Julio Rodriguez: The World Poker Tour is now in its 14th season. Does it feel like you’ve been doing it for that long?

Vince Van Patten: There’s no end in sight. (laughing) The show is doing really well and the ratings have been great with Fox. I will admit that after 14 seasons, every tournament kind of starts to blend into each other, but all of the stops along the way are great. Mike [Sexton] and I are great friends and gambling partners, and we have a lot of fun doing this. I’m very lucky to have this job and still love it.

JR: This season, you actually cashed in two WPT events, finishing 27th at the Seminole Hard Rock Poker Showdown and 14th at WPT Choctaw. Is that your favorite part about being on the tour?

Vince Alongside Mike Sexton In The WPT Commentator BoothVVP: In the last couple of years, they said that we can play in some of the tournaments. Before that, we weren’t allowed. This year I played about five or six tournaments, and I managed to make two deep runs, which was great. But I also enjoy exploring the city at each of the stops, seeing the sights and eating at different restaurants.

JR: What are some of your favorite stops on the tour?

VVP: I love making the trip to the Hard Rock in Florida. I also love the Borgata in Atlantic City. Los Angeles is my home town, so I always enjoy it when the tour is at the Commerce Casino or the Bike.

JR: How much poker do you get to play these days when you aren’t at a tournament stop?

VVP: During a tournament, if I’m not in it, I’ll play some cash games. But other than that, I don’t get to play a lot of cards these days. It’s been years since I had the home game. I’ve just been involved with family stuff, which is always great.

JR: Is there anything else you are working on at the moment?

VVP: This May, I’m doing a movie. I wrote a comedy about the gambling world and the characters that are in it. It’s a fantastic new project for me. It’s based on true events and it’s focused on the high roller gamblers in L.A. and the crazy bets they make. The characters are these bigger-than-life people, which you see all the time in the gambling world. A lot of good poker players are going to be in it. Gary Marshall is going to be executive producer and we’ve also got David T. Friendly, who did Little Miss Sunshine. We’re going to be casting it pretty soon and then we’ll see where it goes from there.

JR: How do you feel that Hollywood has fared when it comes to poker movies?

VVP: I don’t think they’ve done it justice yet. I think they’ve missed the mark, for the most part, and hopefully, I’ll hit it. I think the Cincinnati Kid was an excellent movie, and Rounders did a decent job, but other than that, it’s been rough. That being said, you have to cut these movies some slack. It’s really hard to make a good film, let alone one about poker. I think it’s really difficult to make a movie that’s accurate, but is also entertaining. It really can’t be about the poker hands, because that’s when you lose the audience. That’s why my attempt is going to be about the characters.

JR: Do you sometimes wish those big personality characters would liven up the WPT final tables?

VVP: It’s always nice when you have the crazy guy, or just a good talker at the final table. That always makes for good TV. I’d say that about 20 percent of them are like that, but the others are much more reserved, which makes sense given the money they are playing for. If the whole table is being quiet, then its my job as a commentator to make it entertaining for the people watching at home.