APPT Manila: From the silver screen to the green felt

There’s always been a close connection between celebrities and casino culture, dating back to the days when the Rat Pack ruled Las Vegas. Things have now turned 180°, with poker players becoming celebrities in their own right but poker is also the game of choice for some of the biggest names in the world of sport and entertainment.

With plenty of time and disposal income to spare, celebrities have access to the two elements that restrict us mere mortals. Sure, some celebrities have jumped on the bandwagon but others have shown more than a dash of talent on the green felt like Oscar winner and WSOP bracelet winner Jennifer Tilly, Matt Damon, Ben Affleck and Shannon Elizabeth.


The celebs get some pro tips from the PokerStars crew.

The cult of poker celebrity is as strong in the Philippines as anywhere else in the world. While the region’s best players are battling it out in the APPT Manila main event, the biggest names in Filipino society and show business have been battling it out in a celebrity poker series being filmed in the ballroom next to our tournament area.

OK, we’re not experts, but we’re assured that the line-up of stars like models Maggie Wilson and Anna Igpot, actors Archie Alemania, Sunshine Dizon, media personalties Tonypet Albano and Jinno Rufino, Congressman Nikki Teodoro and basketballer Doug Kramer is very impressive. And with Team PokerStars Pro Lee Nelson and PokerStars Sponsored players Ivan Tan, Neil Arce and Celina Lin providing assistance, the celebs have been attentive pupils.

Some of the stars have decided to double-up on their celebrity poker experience by taking their seats in the APPT Manila main event. Adding more than a dash of glamour at table 17 – conveniently situated next to the media area – is 2004 Miss Earth, Priscilla Meirelles.


"So Priscilla, do you come here often?"

The Brazilian-born model, who also won the 2003 Miss Globe pageant, has since co-hosted the Miss Earth coronation twice, and now makes her home in the Philippines where she works as a successful model. With Celina Lin seated at the same table, the photographers have been paying this table a disproportionate amount of attention.


Alex Pagulayan swaps a cue for cards, but that felt looks familiar.

We’re also stoked to see world pool champion Alex “The Lion” Pagulayan back at the Hyatt Hotel and Casino, after his experience at the 2007 APPT Manila main event. Raised in Canada but now residing in his homeland, “The Lion” has assembled an enviable record on a different form of the green felt. He was crowned 2004 WPA World Nine-ball Champion, and earlier this year took out the World Pool Masters in Las Vegas.