Kevin Pollak Ups the Ante
Mark Ebner, Player Magazine
As the misanthropic Melvin Udall in the movie As Good As It Gets, Jack Nicholson finds salvation in some anti-depressants. For actor Kevin Pollak (the only comedian still doing Nicholson impersonations without seeming hackneyed), refuge from his Hollywood grind might be found in a luxurious, complimentary room at the Bellagio. Or maybe he finds solace in the spicy nuances of a Zino Platinum cigar, or in a crisp, Kettle One vodka on the rocks.
Who is kidding whom here? Pollak’s true salvation is found in 8-to-10 hours of mental swordplay with the poker professionals haunting the famed Bellagio poker room.
Tough life, eh?
Well, you can’t say Pollak hasn’t earned his Las Vegas lifestyle. With more than 50 motion pictures under his belt, a thriving stand-up comedy career in full swing, and three feature films already in the can and slated for release—yeah, Pollak (who has been listed in Variety as one of the 15 hardest working actors in Hollywood) has earned his right to play.
It’s only 3pm, and Kevin—a living, breathing hybrid of Zeppo Marx and Harvey Keitel—is grinning when we meet briefly for cocktails in the Bellagio’s swank Petrossian Bar before the photo shoot. He’s already in the money from morning poker play with the pros, so during his photo shoot in the Picasso restaurant he’s firing off priceless one-liners and impressions for sport. Dinner plans are quickly arranged for later in this vaunted room where the fine art on the walls ($70 million in authentic Picassos) is matched only by what master chef Julian Serrano puts on the plate. After that we’re whisked off to the casino floor.
The cheerful Bellagio poker room manager Deby Callihan greets us amidst the din of clicking chips, bad beat groans and full-boated victory cries. As an aside, she informs me that when it comes to poker, “Kevin is a dandy.” Deby’s father, 1980 World Series of Poker High Draw Champion Pat Callihan, joins us at a reserved table, and we’re on. Pat, a true Vegas old-timer sporting a signature cowboy hat and brown leather vest, leans in to allow that he’s been playing poker with Kevin for 15 years.
“He [Pollak] is a recreational player, but he’s also a winning player,” says the admiring champ. “Win or lose, he always acts like a gentleman.” Well, Gentleman Kevin rudely rakes in two fat pots in two hands with mean trip-3s turning twice against my busted straight draws and Callihan’s discreetly folded cards. Not too long after, our 7-stud game is over before we really have a chance to get started.