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Vince Van Patten on Online Poker, Hollywood, and the World Poker Tour

Vince Van Patten on Online Poker, Hollywood, and the World Poker Tour 0001

Vince Van Patten has a great gig. Every week on the Travel Channel he gets to hang out with Mike Sexton, Shana Hiatt, and the top poker players in the world, and comment on the game he loves so much. A couple months ago, Vince signed on as spokesman for Hollywoodpoker, an online poker site where many of the stars of movies, television, and sports try their luck at online poker.

Recently I had a chance to talk to Vince about his life, his new online poker venture, traveling the world with the World Poker Tour, and what is in store for viewers in WPT season three.

PN: Tell me a little about how the idea for Hollywood poker formed, and how you were approached?

Vince: It was an idea that I always kind of had in the back of my mind. I'm a big fan of online poker...I think it's the next step…so many people I know are enjoying it. I thought it would be a great angle to have celebrities involved in small social games, so people can rub elbows with the celebrities. Poker has taken Hollywood by storm; so many celebrities love to play, so I thought it was a natural fit. Then, just kind of out of the blue, some people approached myself, and James Woods about being celebrity representatives.

PN: Other than yourself, or James Woods, any names you would like to drop as to who players might find playing on Hollywood poker?

I know that a lot of Hollywood friends have played on it. People like Scott Baio, Willie Garson, Dennis Quaid, Camryn Manheim, Mimi Rogers, etc. The stable is just getting bigger and bigger, and the people that are showing interest to play are increasing all the time. In a few months, I think we will have a stable of sixty celebrities who will come in and out of the site.

PN: Any known Hollywood types other than Ben Affleck, or Tobey Maguire who can really play?

I play a lot with Tobey, and Ben in live games, and they are world class players. Jimmy Woods has also made himself into a world class player...he can play with anyone, especially in tournaments. Lou Diamond Phillips is an excellent player. Gabe Kaplan is an great player as is Drew Carey. I also want to mention that there are some athletes out there like Pete Sampras, and Yevgeny Kafelnikov, who are playing the game passionately, and are picking up the game at a rapid pace. Those two guys are on the cusp of playing real world class poker. Lastly, I have to mention my dad, Dick Van Patten, who is a great old-school 7 card stud player.

PN: Speaking of Yevgeny Kaflenikov. He has decided to quit tennis, and become a pro poker player...Do you know him, and do you think he is prepared for what he is getting into?
I do know him. I saw him at the WPT in Paris, and was quite surprised to see him there. We talked a little about it. He is captivated by the game of poker. He has a couple of his young Russian buddies [Kirill Gerasimov is one] who are tutoring him. So, I have no doubt if he applies himself he will be a quick learner, and be able to play world class poker.

PN: The player base at Hollywood Poker seems very healthy already. Are you happy with the results so far?

Yeah, we were just talking it about it last night. I think we are the fastest growing online poker site. It has really just begun, and it is very encouraging.

PN: Any plans you would care to share about continuing to build the player base?

We're doing something with the "night of 1,000 stars" [a great event out here in Los Angeles], and a couple players from our site will be lucky ones, and will get to participate in the event with the 1,000 stars. Also, right now we are really thinking about some things we can do to reward the players who are the most loyal to the site. Also, we feel we really want to cross over into the charity world, and give back a lot. Many celebrities appreciate that and love to do support the charities, so we could have a lot of poker-based events, but for charity, I think that is a good fit.

PN: Anything that has really surprised you yet about your entre into the online poker business?

I have been surprised how much I enjoy chatting. I'm not a great typist, but I really enjoy playing, and yet at the same time messing around, and talking to the players at the table. Everyone has been extremely nice, and fun. We (the celebrities at Hollywood Poker) really want to play at a very social level, playing at very low limits. I find its just as much fun, and I find it very relaxing. I'm not going to lose as much, but you still get to sharpen up your game, while having a fun, social night. I really enjoy talking to the players.

PN: Speaking of sharpening your game – How is Vince Van Patten's game these days?

I'm mostly a No Limit Holdem player. I play in a lot of the side games at the major events, when I'm not doing the WPT. It's the great element of the bluff for me. The more you have No Limit, the more opportunity you have to make a great steal, and that is the thrill I get out of the game. I don't have the time to play as much as I like, but I play about once a week, and when I am doing WPT, I usually get to play in the side games the night before the event as well.

I'll be playing some of the major tournament events around the world this year. I'm not allowed to play in the WPT events, but I'll be playing in the major events at the World Series, for example. Also, I'll play in some of the ESPN events this year. I'm always looking for the big score.

PN: What do you think the future of online poker is? Any thoughts on the future of government regulation, or legislation of online poker?

I really don't know where that is going. I think our game is very benign, and very social. As long as you keep it to limits you can afford, and that is very, very important. I think the game of poker is a game of skill, rather than a real gambling game. I think the future is bright for poker. I think poker is a nice distraction, and a great hobby for people.

PN: You were a pro tennis player. Any similarities you see between the tennis, and the poker circuit?

Absolutely. To become a great poker player, you have to have certain qualities. I feel to be a great tennis, or a great poker player, you have to have a great discipline. I was a self-taught tennis player, I taught myself by reading books, and studying the game. I wound up being the ATP Rookie of the Year, and a Top 25 player in the world through hard work, and study. I got there on my own. Basically, I just figured out a way to win. And that's very much the way you have to do it in the poker world also. You can read all the books you want, but if you don't have the burning desire to win, you will fall through the cracks. So, I relate it very much by being a great competitor. When I teach friends to play poker, I teach them like a professional athlete. You have to have that hunger, and the same qualities that a pro athlete has, to dedicate yourself to be great in the poker world as well.

PN: Is the WPT gig not the best gig you have ever had?

It is one of the great jobs that I have had, simply because poker has been my passion for the last twenty years. I did some commentating for World Series events, and had done some things like that in the past, but it was just meant to be with the World Poker Tour. Steve Lipscomb {WPT creator} gave me the opportunity to do the WPT, and it has fit like a glove. I have the greatest hosting partner in the world, Mike Sexton. We play in side games all the time, and we never stop laughing. We get to travel the world, and play, and commentate on the game we love. And, its just enough work - Its eighteen to twenty weeks a year, which is perfect.

PN: Any surprises in store for viewers in the new season of the WPT?

I think we stepped it up on a notch on World Poker Tour this time. I'm very excited about the third season. I think we have a few surprises with our commentating, as Mike and I like to stay one step ahead. I think the shows are even more exciting, and I'm not just saying that. The outdraws on season three are incredible, and that's what makes good television; you see that miracle card hit, and you can't believe your eyes. For some freaky reason, the outdraws on this coming season are just ridiculous.

Its also fun to see some of the superstars come back, and defend their titles, and I think the fans are going to get to know them more. Also, I think our graphics, lighting, and whole show on the WPT is more exciting, and has been stepped up a notch.

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