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Celebrity Poker Q&A: Actress Beth Hall

Hall Balances Regular Role On CBS Show 'Mom' And Poker Hobby


Actress Beth Hall made it to Day 4 in the Hawaiian Gardens poker tournament last month and is set to return for the finals on Dec. 14. It was a rare opportunity for her to play in a multi-day poker tournament.

Hall is currently a series regular as the hilarious Wendy on the Golden Globe nominated CBS comedy “Mom” opposite Emmy-winner Allison Janney. Season four is currently airing on Thursday nights. Previously, Hall was best known as Caroline, Roger Sterling’s eccentric assistant, on AMC’s “Mad Men." Hall has also appeared on “Jane The Virgin” and “Parks and Recreation.”

Originally from New Jersey, she currently resides in Los Angeles with her husband and their adopted daughter Nina. Hall is an avid poker player and regularly plays in celebrity tournaments around a city that has one of the most vibrant poker scenes in America.

Card Player had the chance to speak with Hall about her interest in the game.

Brian Pempus: How did you find the game of poker?

Beth Hall: I started playing poker as a kid with my relatives, mostly draw poker and seven-card stud. I played with my aunts and her friends. We would have what was called a $2 schneid, which meant you couldn’t lose more than $2 (laughs). Once you were out of your $2, you could play for free until you got more money. And then, like everyone else, I got into the hold’em buzz when you could see the hole cards on TV and really understand it. My husband and I started playing $2 limit and built our way up to no-limit, and eventually got into tournaments. I love tournaments.

BP: Do you prefer tournaments over cash games?

BH: I do, I like the strategy of tournaments. I like that every chip is important, and I never know when to quit cash games (laughs). So many times, I say, “I should have left an hour ago when I was up.” I definitely like tournaments better than cash, when it’s over it’s over.

BP: What was it like playing in the tournament at Hawaiian Gardens Casino? I know you made it back to the finals in December.

BH: It was a lot of fun. It was the first time I made it to the third day of a big tournament. I haven’t played that many long tournaments because I don’t usually have the days to do it. But this sort of worked out. Although for the third day, I was an hour and a half late because I had a run-through, and I lost half my chips. But, I managed to still come back.

BP: How would you describe your tournament poker game?

BH: I try to be tight-aggressive. I’ll be very patient, and then I’ll try to be aggressive and keep people guessing. I don’t want people to pigeonhole me as a tight or loose player. I try to mix it up.

BP: Sometimes people who are well-known can have opponents trying to play more pots against them. Have you encountered this?

BH: I haven’t really found that. But I have found that sometimes people really don’t want to get beaten by a woman. In that poker tournament, there was a guy who said he was only after one player, and that was me (laughs), because I had beaten him in a hand. As far as being an actress, I don’t think people go after me because of that.

BP: How do you try to spot whether a player is sensitive to being beaten in a pot by a woman?

BH: A lot of men aren’t very good at hiding it (laughs). A lot of people don’t get bothered by it, but for some you can tell. I think that’s changing though.

BP: Given your line of work, when you play poker are you more social at the table and do you try to engage with people around you rather than have headphones in and whatnot?

BH: Yes, I think a friendly table makes poker more enjoyable. I don’t understand yelling at the table, blaming the dealer for a bad hand, things like that. That really annoys me. My pet peeve is when someone says “send it.” I hate that, because it’s usually after someone lost a big hand and it feels like gloating. I just hate it. I think it should be outlawed (laughs).

BP: Do you think poker etiquette could be improved?

BH: I do, because you are sitting at a table for a really long time, usually, and it’s just so much more enjoyable if people are friendly. If someone has a question about a ruling, you can politely ask the floorman. There’s no reason to [get heated]. I don’t like when people fold out of turn, or leave the table before it’s their turn to fold, because there are times when that can really dictate how people play hands. I like when that rule is enforced. I stick to the rules, and I like when people stick to the rules.

BP: I want to get your thoughts on the upcoming poker movie "Molly’s Game.”

BH: I have read about it, it looks interesting. I don’t know that much about it, but you can’t get much better than Aaron Sorkin writing it, so I am sure it’s going to be terrific […] I think it would be distracting if actors played themselves, unless everyone was. If you had Matt Damon playing himself and had Ben Affleck played by someone else, it wouldn’t work. You probably aren’t going to get every actor to play themselves, especially if it’s written in a way where it’s not going to be flattering.

BP: With your schedule and your interest in poker, how do you find solid blocks of time to play?

BH: Yeah, it is hard. I have never played in the World Series of Poker main event, because it’s really hard to play when you are an actress because you never know when work is going to pop up. I would like to play bigger, multi-day tournaments.

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