Actress Jennifer Tilly -- well, sort-of actress Jennifer Tilly -- is among the field of 64 poker players converging on Las Vegas this weekend for the seventh annual National Heads-Up Poker Championship at Caesar's Palace.
Tilly, who is back for her sixth year of competition, readily admits that she's a poker addict.
"When I'm offered a movie role or a TV show, I always wonder how it's going to affect my time playing poker," said Tilly, who was nominated for an Academy Award for "Bullets over Broadway" in 1994 and now voices a "Family Guy" character. "I'm being serious. I definitely believe my love of poker has led to the downward spiral of my acting career!"
The buy-in for invited players has increased this year from $20,000 to $25,000, and the first-place finisher will receive $750,000. The event will be taped for broadcast on NBC over six consecutive Sundays in April and May, and will also be covered on espn.com/poker. The first-round opponents for the brackets will be chosen at random during a draw party Thursday night with the competition beginning Friday.
Returning to compete are several of the world's top poker pros, including defending champion Annie Duke, Phil Ivey, Phil Hellmuth, Doyle Brunson, Chris Ferguson, Daniel Negreanu and 2010 World Series of Poker main event champion Jonathan Duhamel. Celebrities competing include Hall of Fame running back Emmitt Smith and actors Jason Alexander, Don Cheadle and Gabe Kaplan.
Tilly, who is currently dating pro player Phil Laak, has been playing poker for about 20 years. In 2005, she won a WSOP bracelet in the Ladies' No-Limit Texas Hold 'Em event, outlasting 600 players. So she is passionate about this sport.
"This isn't like riding a bike," Tilly said. "You have to play a lot to remain sharp. And that's what I like doing."