In its previous two seasons, the Super High Roller Bowl presented by Poker Central has had its share of businesspeople (Dan Shak, Kathy Lehne, both accomplished poker players) and poker professionals (too numerous to mention), but it has never had a “celebrity” in the mix. Some might still say that bar hasn’t been crossed but, with the announcement from Poker Central that comedian Kevin Hart will be taking part in the 2017 version of the tournament, they are drawing closer.
It doesn’t seem to faze the star of Central Intelligence that he’s in for $300,000. “I love playing high stakes poker, and there’s no better competition than at the Super High Roller Bowl – the world championship of high stakes poker,” Hart stated during the announcement of his participation. “I am looking forward to all the support and positive vibes from my fans who will be tuning in through Poker Central to watch me stomp all over the competition.”
“For the last two years, the Super High Roller Bowl has been the premier high stakes poker event in the world. The addition of Kevin Hart this year takes it to a whole other level,” said Joe Kakaty, the president of Poker Central, who joined Hart for the announcement. “Kevin’s ability to resonate with audiences across the world gives Poker Central the platform to reach future poker fans who will be getting their first taste of the action.”
The 56-player field was already replete with some of the best poker players in the world. Including the inaugural champion Brian Rast and defending champion Rainer Kempe, other players such as 2016 World Series of Poker Player of the Year Jason Mercier, 2017 Super High Roller Bowl runner-up Fedor Holz, the two winners of the $1 million buy-in “Big One for One Drop” at the WSOP Antonio Esfandiari and Dan Colman, the only man to cash in both the previous tournaments, Erik Seidel, the all-time leading money winner in poker Daniel Negreanu and 14-time WSOP bracelet winner Phil Hellmuth are all a part of the field. It will present a challenge to Hart, who’s background in poker is, to be kind, limited.
Previous to 2017, there is little to no known information that Kevin Hart even was interested in the game of poker. That was until the inaugural PokerStars Championship Bahamas in January, when Hart mysteriously showed up to play in the $100,000 Super High Roller tournament and stayed around to take part in the $5000 Main Event. After the trip to Atlantis, Hart did not take part in another event until he showed up in Monte Carlo for the PSC festival, where he once again took part in the €100,000 Super High Roller. Demonstrating that you just don’t “drop in” and excel in the world of high stakes poker, Hart has yet to cash in any tournament.
The presence of Hart has also stirred interest in the poker community, for both good and bad. While he held a press conference in Monaco alongside Negreanu to ostensibly “make poker fun again,” Hart didn’t exactly point out any examples of how he, along with PokerStars, was going to exactly do just that. On the negative side, people have pointed out how it appears that PokerStars has sponsored Hart in the events he’s played, meaning that Hart is freerolling the game and doesn’t have to take it seriously (not to mention that, in being the #1 comedian in 2016 with over $87 million in earnings, a $100,000 tournament is chicken feed for him).
Could Hart “break his duck” in the Super High Roller Bowl this year? Fans will be able to see Hart in action when the first day of the tournament is streamed live through YouTube, Twitch, and Facebook Live on May 28. The remainder of the tournament will be broadcast through Poker Central’s digital distribution network, with the tournament being taped and edited for broadcast in its entirety later in the summer. With $16.8 million on the line – including $6 million for first place – the players will be bringing their “A” game – will Hart bring his or is he the comedic relief?