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Versatile Actor/Comedian Brad Garrett's Poker Face

15 April 2009

When Brad Garrett brings his stand-up comedy routine to the stage, he brings his poker face along for the ride.

Garrett is a tremendous fan of the game and has been since his early 20's. You may have seen him on TV in one of his many celebrity poker tournament appearances, but he has also been known to take a break from his professional routine by relaxing in a game at a casino near his home in California or even when he's on the road.

For the last 20 years, Garrett has made it a point to get together with Ray Romano and some other buddies to play a home game once a month.

Garrett's love affair with poker almost began when he was a teenager, but it took him a few years to warm up to the game.

"My cousin, with whom I'm very close, had a home game when he was in high school," Garrett said. "It was something I couldn't imagine being a part of at that age. In my early 20's he said to me, 'Listen, you've got to come to our game!', so I went. We played all kinds of crazy, insane dealer's choice games."

The actor is already looking forward to his own charity poker tournament he hosts every year. It's coming up on May 30 at the Commerce Casino in Los Angeles.

"It's a big event I have once a year for my own charity called Maximum Hope Foundation, which helps subsidize families that are dealing with the unfortunate life of having a terminal child," he said.

"It's a charity I started with my ex-wife years ago. We're still very close, thank goodness, and we're forging forward. We hold the tournament in conjunction with the Dream Foundation, which assists families that are facing terminal illness in adults."

In addition to Garrett, other celebrities who'll be taking part in the event include Ray Romano, Jason Alexander, and Kevin Nealon.

Aside from his role as Ray Romano's brother Robert on the hit TV show "Everybody Loves Raymond", fans of Garrett will recall his memorable performance portraying legendary showman Jackie Gleason in the 2002 made-for-TV movie "How Sweet it Was!"

"Nobody wanted me to do it," Garrett said. "My own network, CBS, wouldn't even let me audition. Of the first people they hired, which were wonderful choices, one dropped out and another became unavailable. They literally called me at the last minute and said I had to be in Montreal in six days. It was something I was just destined to do."

Stand-up comedy goes back to the versatile performer's roots, and to this day it remains one of the aspects of his career that he enjoys the most.

"I was doing standup when I was 15 years old and in high school," he said. "It's funny, when Ray (Romano) and I worked the Mirage last month, we were back stage, looking at our notes, pacing back and forth, and picking at our nails. He looked at me and he said, 'It's so odd, here we are, 30 years later, and five minutes before we go out we still don't know'. That's what's great about stand-up.

"I feel so blessed to have had a good amount of success. TV has been great, I've done a little film, and I've done stage, which I really think I love the most because it's a combination of acting and stand-up, and because it's live. Stand-up comedy is the only thing that can humble the heck out of you in 10 minutes no matter how long you've been in this industry. It keeps it real."

Garrett takes his poker game to heart, but not to the extreme of being so serious that he doesn't also have fun.

"I really don't believe I'll ever take it to that point," he said. "To be perfectly honest, I don't have the mind for it. Phil Helmuth once walked up to me and said, 'You should really just go to your car'. I hung with him a little bit and he actually gave me the honor of sitting behind him at one point and allowing me to just watch him play."

Aside from his home games, Garrett finds it difficult to walk into a poker room to sit down at a table to play

"Once in a while I'll go to Commerce Casino, which is close to home," he revealed. "People come up to me, but it's a small price to pay for a good life. I feel very lucky that people care about what I've done. Sometimes if they're in a big hand they'll try to bully you at the table. They want to say, 'I took out Brad Garrett!' or 'He doesn't know how to play' or something like that. But I love it."

As famous as his face, 6-feet 8 ½-inch frame, and quirky mannerisms are, his distinctive voice makes him sought-after for voice-over roles.

"I've always enjoyed it because I was always a fan of animation," he said. "In the early days I couldn't make a living just doing stand up. I always had a strange voice and I started doing voice-overs early on.

"When I became a dad, my kids didn't want to watch Raymond or whatever, but when I was in an animated feature that was just the coolest thing in the world. I do love doing it, especially working with people like Pixar. It's some of the best writing of any film you're ever going to work on, whether it's live action or animated. I love it, the kids dig it, and it's fun. It's something like stand-up that will always be close to me and has always been very good to me."

During Garrett's days as an opening act in Las Vegas in the 80's and 90's, he frequented poker rooms playing his game of choice, 7-Card Stud. When a dealer suggested he learn how to play Hold'em, Garrett was reluctant.

"I was too lazy to learn a new game, but I finally picked it up at our home game and now that's all I play," he said. "I was never a good player, and I'm not a good player today because I don't have the patience and math isn't my thing."

"The great thing about poker is it doesn't matter who you are," he said. "It's one of the few places I can go where it really is about the game. After that people don't care who you are."

John G. Brokopp

John G. Brokopp's gaming column appears in Chicago Sun Times (Chicago, Illinois), The Times (Northwest Indiana), The Quad City Times (Davenport, Iowa), The Courier News (Elgin, Illinois), The Gazette (Southwest Suburban Chicago) and Senior Wire (Denver, CO). He's also a regular contributor to The Colorado Gambler, Midwest Gaming & Travel, Casino Player and Strictly Slots. John possesses 28 years of experience as a professional handicapper, publicist, freelance writer, and casino gaming correspondent. He is also the author of two very popular books, The Insider’s Guide to Internet Gambling and Thrifty Gambling.

Books by John G. Brokopp:

> More Books By John G. Brokopp

John G. Brokopp
John G. Brokopp's gaming column appears in Chicago Sun Times (Chicago, Illinois), The Times (Northwest Indiana), The Quad City Times (Davenport, Iowa), The Courier News (Elgin, Illinois), The Gazette (Southwest Suburban Chicago) and Senior Wire (Denver, CO). He's also a regular contributor to The Colorado Gambler, Midwest Gaming & Travel, Casino Player and Strictly Slots. John possesses 28 years of experience as a professional handicapper, publicist, freelance writer, and casino gaming correspondent. He is also the author of two very popular books, The Insider’s Guide to Internet Gambling and Thrifty Gambling.

Books by John G. Brokopp:

> More Books By John G. Brokopp