It's the only time you'll see actors eagerly awaiting ''the flop.'' On May 27, Bravo shuffles in stars like Matthew Perry and Sean Astin for season 2 of the cult hit ''Celebrity Poker Showdown.'' The tourney -- which was taped at Las Vegas' Palms Casino Resort -- is a big deal: Two $100,000 pots go to the winners' charities of choice. Plus, every hand brings a chance to get humiliated on national TV! ''I was weaned on 'Battle of the Network Stars,''' notes CPS exec producer Joshua Malina (''The West Wing''). ''Poker can be more revealing than a talk show, where [you're] building to a preset punchline.''
Judging by the vibe backstage, most players aren't laughing off the competition. ''I try not to even talk,'' confides Mena Suvari during a practice hand. ''You're just giving information away.'' Others let the chips fall where they may. ''I lost so much money last night, I don't even give a s -- - today,'' jokes Jon Favreau, referring to a private match with two guys named Matt and Ben. After the first of several rounds of cocktails are served, the games -- and trash talk -- begin. ''There's no shame in folding,'' James Woods tells Timothy Busfield. ''There's shame in wearing that shirt. You look like a sand dune.'' Then come the out-of-nowhere reversals at the flop (that's the first three community cards the dealer shows), the tumbleweed silences, and one gambit of unprecedented bravado: ''Not only am I all-in, I'm including this autographed photo of David Copperfield,'' declares ''Ed'''s Michael Ian Black, anteing up the treasure.
When all the cards are played, what's left for a charitable celeb to do? ''I'm gonna gamble, then get a couple of whores,'' says Wanda Sykes. ''It's Vegas. You gotta do it.''