Ken Tucker
July 09, 2004 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Celebrity Poker Showdown

TV Show
Current Status
In Season
guest performer
Sean Astin, Jon Favreau, Matthew Perry

We gave it a B+

Bravo’s Celebrity Poker Showdown is the only setting in the universe where ”Malcolm in the Middle”’s Christopher Masterson can outperform ”Friends”’ Matthew Perry.

As on its Travel Channel counterpart ”World Poker Tour” — where ”Celebrity Poker” cohost Phil Gordon, a professional gambler-slash-”Internet millionaire,” frequently turns up behind a huge pile of chips as a player — the game is Texas Hold ‘Em. Tiny cameras show the two cards each player is initially dealt, then the gradual display of five more cards through rounds of betting provides built-in suspense.

Gordon’s ”Celebrity” partner is Dave Foley, the Kid in the Hall from ”NewsRadio,” a proudly ignorant nonplayer who enjoys attributing the direction of the show’s rules-of-poker intro film to a different person every time; one night it was ”the pioneering master of montage, Sergei Eisenstein.” The celebs play for charity, and even that’s not off-limits for Foley: ”Lauren Graham is playing for the Revlon/UCLA Women’s Cancer Research Program,” he said, his eyebrows waggling like Groucho Marx’s. ”They don’t cure cancer — they just make it look better.” Poker-faced Phil Gordon’s jaw dropped.

Between the ”Poker” contests, casino-based reality shows, and scripted series like ”CSI,” ”Las Vegas,” and the upcoming ”dr. vegas” (Rob Lowe as a casino sawbones), I never again want to hear the mantra ”What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.” Nowadays, what happens in Vegas happens in your living room. Remember, kids: Gambling addiction begins at home.

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