If someone came up to you and said “How would you like to fly to Monaco and try your hand at winning a million dollars in a poker tournament?” would you do it? Well that’s what American actor Sean Astin did ahead of his appearance in one of the last Shark Cage heats at the PokerStars and Monte-Carlo® Casino European Poker Tour Grand Final.
According to Sean, he made is decision on no more information than that. The actor, famous for playing Samwise Gamgee in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, has played poker before including an ill-fated appearance in 2004 on Bravo’s ‘Celebrity Poker Showdown’.
“I went all-in bluffing with some ridiculous hand like K7 or Q3 on the very first hand. I had to spend the rest of the hour in what was affectionately known as ‘The Loser’s Lounge!’
“I’ve played in a lot of home games as well. There’s one standing game that a friend of mine ran, and every week there was a table full of Hollywood stars. You’d have everyone there, up to and including more distinguished older actors, legends really!”
Astin previously visited Monaco his then fiancée, now wife. “We’ve been married 22 years now. In our first year we decided to do a rail-trip around Europe. I also came here during the Cannes film festival, where we took a trip to Monaco. My abiding impression was that you weren’t dressed without your Ferrari!”
In order to gain experience ahead of his appearance on the Shark Cage, Sean said that he had been studying previous episodes from the first series of Shark Cage to hone his skills.
“My flight from Frankfurt to Nice was delayed, so I was watching episodes in the terminal! I would say that I don’t fully understand the premise, because in hockey if you’re sent to the penalty box, you don’t get to play. But if you go into the water with a bunch of sharks, the best place to be in is the cage!”
“I liked watching Fatima Moreira de Melo on some of the episodes I watched. She was feisty and annoying, but in an entertaining way.”
“I feel a lot more confident now, but the one area I’m still hesitant about is physically manipulating the higher value chips. You see the professionals playing with them all the time, stacking them, pushing them around. I can certainly understand the denominations, but I don’t want to be intimidated by having to hold them and move them around. Playing online is so much easier, because you can just glance at everyone’s chip stacks and do what you need to do.”
“One thing I’ll always keep thinking about, and I always tell my daughter this, is that the person who wins is the person who knows the rules best. And that stands for life; politics, academics, business – he or she who knows the rules best always wins. ”
Sean has three daughters, and when asked what he’d do with the money, his children weren’t far from his mind. “Put my daughters through college. I wish my family was with me. This was very last minute, but I would want them here to enjoy Monaco, to enjoy being in Europe.”
“Monaco is a great opportunity for me, I mean the hotel is fantastic. But they’ve never even seen a tournament. My 12 year old panicked that if I lost this tournament I was going to make them all homeless, but I quickly reassured them. And now she’s sending me things like this.”
He shows me the phone where his daughter has written the famous quote from Rounders: “If you can’t spot the sucker in your first half hour at the table, then you are the sucker.” Sean’s one word response? “Damn.”
Aside from jetting off to Monte Carlo to have a stab at winning $1 million, Sean is looking to later in this year where he has two films coming out. In his own words: “One is a two-character meditation on suicide set in a 1970’s era ski boat. Me and this old man are stuck in the middle of lake Michigan.”
“The other is an unabashed Christian film that depicts a true story of a high school football team in 1973 during which time black and white children were being forced to attend high school together. This one particular high school found common cause in their Christianity and became a beacon for their community.”
As for tactics for the Shark Cage, Sean says it’s important not to panic. “I learned the hard way what it means to panic. If I think that if a moment of panic comes along, I’ll just smile and relax.” Sean recently completed the Boston marathon, and says that training for that helped him gain a lot more maturity and perspective about his life. “When you get to mile 18, that’s where the pain really starts. It’s good to remind myself that no one forced me to do this. I’m choosing to be here at this mile. And if I force the muscles in my face to smile, and hold that thought just for a moment, something neurologically just clicks.”
Does this mean we’ll see nothing but smiles from him whilst he’s at the table? “If I smile, you’ll know that it means I’m having a moment of panic!”
Editor’s Note: The author apologises for the lack of Lord of the Rings puns contained within this article.