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Jennifer Tilly - From Prime Time To Poker Star And Back

From one of America’s most recognizable stars on the big and small screen to playing poker in the real world for a million dollars before giving it all up to return to acting, Jennifer Tilly’s career has been a rollercoaster ride all the way. Let’s find out more about her.

Adaline Fritz
Oct 23, 20232016 Shares111980 Views
From one of America’s most recognizable stars on the big and small screen to playing poker in the real world for a million dollars before giving it all up to return to acting, Jennifer Tilly’s career has been a rollercoaster ride all the way. Let’s find out more about her.

Early Life From California to British Colombia

Jennifer was born in Harbor City, a few miles northwest of Long Beach, California. She was the second of four children, with an older brother and two younger sisters, one of whom is Golden Globe-winning actress Meg Tilly.
At the age of five, Jennifer’s parents divorced and she spent her formative years with her mother and stepfather in rural British Colombia. It was while attending Belmont Secondary School in Langford, BC that she first developed an interest in acting, and she pursued any opportunity, volunteering to step in as an extra in local theatre productions.

Early Success On Some Top Shows

Jennifer’s big TV break was a relatively small role, but it’s one that anyone over a certain age knows. She shows up in six early episodes of Hill Street Blues as Gina Srignoli, love interest to detective Henry Goldblume and widow of a local mobster.
She also appeared in a couple of episodes of Frasier, before her breakthrough movie role.

Big Screen Breakthrough

In 1994, Jennifer was nominated for Best Supporting Actress at the Academy Awards for her role as Olive Neal in Woody Allen's Bullets Over Broadway. She lost to co-star Dianne Wiest and carried on undaunted with minor roles in movies like Getaway, Liar, Liar and several other movies in the mid 1990s before the next life-changing offer came along.
Horror fans will know exactly what we mean, and Jennifer Tilly is a favorite at conventions where she is willing to spend hours dressed in her role as psychotic murderess Tiffany Valentine. She first played the role in 1998 and has reprised it several times for subsequent movies, TV series and animations.
Her acting career developed a third strand around the turn of the millennium when she first took up voice work. This included parts in movies like Monsters Inc and Stuart Little. But again, it is a small screen role that everyone remembers. Jennifer’s performance as Bonnie Swanson in Family Guy is unmistakable.

Turning Her Back On Fame For A Career In Poker

Jennifer learned to play poker as a teenager, to provide some common ground she could share with her father, who had stayed back in California. When she moved back to Hollywood, she began to play more seriously and even started to enter a few tournaments.
It all came to a crescendo in June 2005, when she beat 599 other players to win the Ladies' No-Limit Texas Hold 'em event at the World Series of Poker (WSOP). It earned her a WSOP bracelet, something that even many of the top players fail to achieve. She also pocketed about $150,000 in prize money.
She followed this with another high profile win in September, coming first in the World Poker Tour Ladies Invitational Tournament.
With two big wins under her belt, Jennifer told the now-defunct ProAm Poker Equalizer magazine that she was walking away from acting to focus full time on her poker. Anyone who has played poker competitively knows that was a bold move, and bear in mind that this was 2005, right in the middle of the first US online poker craze.
We won’t go into the history at length, but it is fair to say that back then, online poker was like the Wild West, and the Federal authorities brought it all crashing down in 2011. Today’s online poker world is properly managed and regulated, but that is a different story – the team of experts at legaluspokersites.comcan provide more information and bring things up to date.
As it was, Jennifer went on to participate in more poker events, but other than a third place finish in the Celebrity Poker Showdown in June 2006, she had little to show for it, at least as far as results were concerned. At the table, she had plenty to show, and her choice of attire caused some controversy. But as she famously told New York Magazine: “If people are really playing poker, nothing looks better to them than a pair of aces. They’re not looking at your pair. They’re looking at their pair.”
By 2008, the results had dried up as well as the wisecracks, and Jennifer announced that her time was up as a poker pro, saying that achieving greatness in the game was an “elusive dream”. After a couple of years away, she started to play again, but only at occasional tournaments “as a hobby.” She has won no more tournaments, but has had enough money to take her career earning over $1 million.

A Return To Acting

In 2012, aged 54, Jennifer returned to the stage, back where it all began, first with a critically acclaimed run on Broadway as Mistress Suzanne in the classic Don’t Dress for Dinner. Then she went to London to star in the compelling but disturbing Grasses of a Thousand Colors.
She has also been busy with more voice work on several animated series including Supermansion and Monsters at Work.

Personal Life And Wealth

In 1984, Jennifer married Sam Scott, one of the original developers of The Simpsons. They parted in 1991, 14 years before his untimely death, but she still receives a percentage of the net proceeds from the series via his estate. For the past 19 years, she has been in a relationship with Irish poker pro Phil Laak. She met him at the 2004 World Poker Tour Invitational, which he happened to win in great style.
The “Simpsons royalties” alone bring in an estimated $10 million per year. When you add Jennifer’s regular acting work, plus her poker winnings, the estimated net worth of $40 million that most celebritysites pin to her seems on the light side.
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