A birthday poker lesson for Ellen DeGeneres from Vince Van Patten

January 28, 2020inPoker

Among the people appearing onstage at the 2020 Grammy Awards on Sunday night was comedian and talk show host Ellen DeGeneres who just happened also to be celebrating her 62nd birthday.

DeGeneres introduced a performance of “Old Town Road” featuring Lil Nas X, Billy Ray Cyrus, BTS, and Mason Ramsey. You know the song, I’m sure — it only broke a record last year after sitting at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 19 straight weeks (!).

DeGeneres was also nominated herself for Best Comedy Album, though Dave Chappelle picked up that award for a third-straight year.

As it happens, we know more about what else DeGeneres was doing on her special day. And that it involved poker.

That’s because DeGeneres’ wife, actress Portia de Rossi of Arrested Development fame, gave her a thoughtful birthday gift — a private poker lesson delivered by longtime World Poker Tour co-host and actor Vince Van Patten.

De Rossi gave her Instagram followers a glimpse of the one-on-one session. The moment shows Van Patten teaching DeGeneres about the significance of tells and table talk, sharing that famous poker lesson that “strong means weak” and “weak means strong.”

“I’m not table talking you,” cracked DeGeneres. “I’m just talking and you’re at a table.”

After the lesson, Van Patten judged DeGeneres to have been a strong student.

DeGeneres reportedly isn’t without some poker experience. In fact a couple of years ago there were some dubious tales spread by gossip tabloids about her regularly hosting a high-stakes game at her California home, although it sounds as though most of the details of those reports were as fishy as… erm… the salmon at Denny’s.

DeGeneres is a poker player, though, and has played in home games with other celebrities. Thus it isn’t too surprising to see her and Van Patten cross paths, given the latter’s history of taking part in Hollywood home games. In fact, it was just such a game that inspired Van Patten’s new movie 7 Days to Vegas in which he stars and co-wrote the screenplay.

The title and premise comes from a real-life story from one of Van Patten’s games in which he accepted a prop bet that he couldn’t walk from Los Angeles to Las Vegas in one week. The movie co-stars Van Patten’s wife, actress Eileen Davidson who has appeared in many soap operas and on The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. A number of other familiar poker faces make cameos in the movie, too, including Jennifer Tilly, Phil Laak, Antonio Esfandiari, Mike Sexton, and Phil Hellmuth.

That said, there was a chance — perhaps just a two-outer, perhaps greater — that someone else might have delivered DeGeneres’ birthday poker lesson on Sunday.

Our friend Joe Stapleton might have been the one table talking with Ellen, if not for a missed message.

Luckily for Stapes, David Williams was able to help him see the bright side.

Photos: “Ellen DeGeneres,” ronpaulrevolt2008, CC BY 2.0; “Vince Van Patten,” World Poker Tour, CC BY-ND 2.0.


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