Remember Matthew Perry: Making the Celebrity Poker Showdown Championship

Remember Matthew Perry: Making the Celebrity Poker Showdown Championship

Actor Matthew Perry tragically passed away at age 54 on Saturday. You might not know it, but the Friends star showed interest in poker during his adult life, including a near championship run on Bravo's Celebrity Poker Showdown, an iconic 2000s poker show.

Perry was reportedly found dead in a hot tub at his Los Angeles home. He was unresponsive when police arrived at his house. Foul play isn't suspected, and drugs weren't discovered at the scene. A cause of death has yet to be determined.

Showed an Interest in Poker

Perry became a huge hit on Friends, one of the most popular TV sitcoms in the 1990s, playing the role of Chandler Bingh. He'd go on to star in many films during the late 1990s and 2000s. But he also appeared a few times on televised poker shows, including Celebrity Poker Showdown, a battle of amateur poker-playing celebs competing for hundreds of thousands of dollars for charity.

The show, hosted by comedian Dave Foley and former poker pro Phil Gordon, took place from 2003-2006 at the Palm's in Las Vegas. Each televised tournament included five one-table preliminary rounds and then a championship match between the prelim winners.

In the fourth tournament, Perry won the table, beating out comedian Sarah Silverman, actor Christopher Meloni, Stephen Root (Milton from Office Space), and French-American actor Michael Vartan.

For winning the table, Perry advanced to the championship game against a star-studded cast of celebs, including basketball Hall of Famer Dennis Rodman, actor Neil Patrick Harris, Saturday Night Live alum Kevin Nealon, and 8 Mile co-star Mekhi Phifer.

The winner of the match would receive $100,000 of the $250,000 prize pool for the charity of their choice. Although the players didn't exactly put on a clinic on how to play winning poker, it was one of the more entertaining poker shows ever because of the personalities at the table and in the broadcast booth.

Perry, who also appeared in the second tournament preliminary round but didn't advance, explained his strategy prior to the championship match.

"This time, I knew to lie a few times," Perry said on how he was able to win his prelim table the second time around.

The entire table played most of the show chasing Phifer's chip stack. With four players left after Rodman busted, Phifer had more than half the chips in play.

Neil Patrick Harris pulled off a solid bluff with 76 on a board of 8102Q when he pretended to be overly excited about the turn card and then bet out, convincing Perry to fold his A4.

Perry would get some revenge, bluffing with king-high and, for some odd reason, convincing Harris to fold top pair (aces) on the flop. But he'd misstep soon after with 62 on a flop of 2AA when he called a four-bet all in from Phifer, who was over 99% to win the hand with AK.

"That was not a good play at all," brutally honest commentator Gordon said. "The thousand dollar bet to start wasn't so bad, but he has to lay that hand down facing any resistance."

Perry was eliminated in fourth place, good for $10,000 to his charity, the Lili Claire Foundation, which offers programs and services to children living with neurogenetic birth conditions. Phifer would go on to win the championship in the fourth Celebrity Poker Showdown tournament.

In 2004, Perry competed in a World Poker Tour (WPT) tournament at the Bicycle Casino in Los Angeles. He was also known to have played in some Hollywood home games once in a while.

The legendary actor who was born in Massachusetts but grew up mostly in Canada. He suffered from drug and alcohol addiction throughout much of his celebrity life, which he talked about in his 2022 memoir Friends, Lovers, and the Big Terrible Thing: A Memoir.


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