The world mourned the untimely loss of actor Matthew Perry at the age of 54, leaving behind a legacy that extended beyond his iconic role in “Friends.” While many remember him for his witty quips as Chandler Bing, Perry also left his mark on the world of poker, particularly during a memorable stint on Bravo’s “Celebrity Poker Showdown.”
Perry’s journey to the poker table began in the 2000s when he participated in the star-studded poker showdown. The show, hosted by comedian Dave Foley and poker pro Phil Gordon, unfolded at the Palm’s in Las Vegas from 2003 to 2006. It was a battle of amateur celebrity poker enthusiasts competing for substantial charitable donations.
In one memorable episode of the fourth tournament, Perry emerged victorious at the table, outplaying notable names such as comedian Sarah Silverman, actor Christopher Meloni, Stephen Root (famous for his role as Milton in “Office Space”), and French-American actor Michael Vartan.
As the champion of the preliminary round, Perry advanced to the championship game. His opponents included basketball Hall of Famer Dennis Rodman, the multitalented Neil Patrick Harris, “Saturday Night Live” alum Kevin Nealon, and “8 Mile” co-star Mekhi Phifer. The winner of the championship would secure a portion of the $250,000 prize pool for the charity of their choice.
The ensuing poker action was far from a masterclass, but it stood out as one of the most entertaining poker showdowns ever witnessed, thanks to the engaging personalities at the table and in the broadcast booth.
Before the championship match, Perry shared his strategy, which included a willingness to bluff. “This time, I knew to lie a few times,” he confessed, revealing a facet of his game plan.
The players at the table spent most of the match chasing Mekhi Phifer, who held a dominating chip stack. With just four players remaining after Rodman’s departure, the game’s dynamics became intense.
Neil Patrick Harris pulled off a remarkable bluff with 7♦6♦, creating an elaborate façade of excitement over the turn card to deceive Perry, who folded his A♣4♠. However, Perry got his revenge with a king-high bluff that convinced Harris to fold top pair (aces) on the flop.
Yet, Perry’s fortunes took a nosedive when he misplayed a hand with 6♥2♥ on a flop of 2♠A♣A♦. He called an aggressive four-bet all-in from Phifer, who held A♥K♦, leaving Perry to rue his decision.
As commentator Phil Gordon aptly put it, “That was not a good play at all.” Perry’s fourth-place finish earned $10,000 for his chosen charity, the Lili Claire Foundation, which supports children living with neurogenetic birth conditions.
Ultimately, Mekhi Phifer went on to claim the championship title in the fourth installment of “Celebrity Poker Showdown,” capping off a memorable poker journey for the late Matthew Perry.
Beyond this televised poker adventure, Perry also tested his poker skills in the World Poker Tour (WPT) tournament at the Bicycle Casino in Los Angeles in 2004 and engaged in occasional poker battles in Hollywood’s home games, solidifying his status as a true poker aficionado.