Once upon a time, there was an Irish poker pro and a gorgeous Hollywood actress who bonded at the poker table and have since been inseparable.
Here is the tale of Phil Laak and Jennifer Tilly.
Phil “The Unabomber” Laak is an Irish poker pro who currently resides in Los Angeles.
He was given his unique nickname due to his habit of wearing a hoodie and sunglasses at the table, somewhat resembling the forensic sketch of terrorist Theodore Kaczynski, also known as the Unabomber. Laak does try a few variations on this look with an occasional beanie and the crazy ski goggles he donned at the 2014 World Series of Poker (WSOP).
Laak was first introduced to poker in 1999 at an underground New York City club and was hooked. Throughout his career, Phil Laak has won a WSOP bracelet and a World Poker Tour (WPT) title. To date, his natural aptitude for poker has earned nearly $3.7 million in total live winnings.
Laak holds the current Guinness World Record for Poker Endurance after playing for 115 hours straight at Las Vegas’ Bellagio in 2010.
Despite his obvious quirks and unique behavior, the 45-year-old Laak is a truly intelligent guy. He graduated from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst with a mechanical engineering degree; has worked as a stock market speculator, real estate investor, and sports betting broker; and is a backgammon master. He is also quite inventive in his speech, having coined such poker jargon as “felted”, “upstuck”, and “POW” (pay off wizard).
Phil Laak and Antonio “The Magician” Esfandiari are best buddies and former roommates. Laak is also currently dating actress and poker enthusiast Jennifer Tilly — they’ve been an item since 2004.
California-born Jennifer Tilly was raised in British Columbia, Canada. She was a prolific actress prior to her entry into the poker world. In addition to receiving a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination for Bullets over Broadway, she has appeared in many movies.
Her unique voice has earned her several voice-over roles such as Celia in Monsters, Inc. and, perhaps, her best known role as evil doll Chucky’s bride, Tiffany, in the Child’s Play franchise. Her younger sister Meg is also an actress.
Tilly began getting serious about poker in 2005; however, by the end of 2008, she announced her retirement from poker and decided to make it more a hobby than a career. In 2010, however, she came out of retirement.
She has been quite successful at the poker table. In 2005, Tilly won a WSOP bracelet in the Ladies’ No Limit Texas Hold ‘Em event, besting a field of 600. A few months later, Tilly won the third WPT Ladies Invitational at California’s Bicycle Casino. As of June 2017, her live tournament winnings are nearly $1 million.
The beautiful actress has been named “The Unabombshell” as well as “J Tilla the Killa” likely due to her sexy clothing. Hey, if you’ve got it, flaunt it, right?
Phil Laak and Jennifer Tilly: Two of a kind
Phil Laak and Jennifer Tilly first met at the 2004 World Poker Tour Invitational at Los Angeles’ Commerce Casino. Laak actually ended up winning this event.
At this point in her life, Tilly was more interested in learning about poker than acting. She “casually” told him she wished that she could play like he does, to which Laak replied that he would teach her to play if she would teach him how to accessorize.
As a true woman of the 21st century, it was Tilly who first asked Laak for his number. He later reported that he didn’t want to be too forward. Of course, Laak probably felt like he had the nuts—that is, until she didn’t call.
The next time they got together he asked for her number and they have been together since. Her poker lessons have definitely paid off; however, it appears that Laak might need more accessorizing tips (ahem, ski goggles.)
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At the table
There really aren’t many videos featuring both Phil Laak and Jennifer Tilly competing at the same table, but here’s a cute little lover’s spat.
Separately, however, there are many clips from which to choose. Take a look.
Jennifer Tilly in action
3. Tilly versus David Williams
Sometimes having a reputation as being an aggressively loose player is beneficial. Take a look at this hand between Tilly and Williams.
2. Wow, just wow
Luck is truly a beautiful thing. Check out this compilation of hands from Poker Night in America.
1. Tilly versus Torelli
Even Doug Polk seemed to enjoy watching this hand. Watch Jennifer pull out a classic lucky Laak suck out against Torelli.
Classic Phil Laak
4. Laak versus his BFF
What a great call by the Unabomber who is looking very un-Unabomber-like against his best buddy.
3. Laak and Luke
In this hand, Lucky Laak reigns supreme, and Schwartz’s soliloquy is reminiscent of the The Madness of King George. Oh yeah, and Phil Hellmuth is providing commentary.
2. Laak and Luke: The rematch
Another duel between these two in the same game, no less. I expected Schwartz’s head to explode.
1. Laak versus Tom Dwan
Live from “Sick Land,” Laak’s reputation as a POW is demonstrated after a lengthy yet entertaining monologue.
I, personally, wish Phil Laak and Jennifer Tilly much happiness and success both on and off the felt. They’re funny, oh-so-cute together, and seem quite happy, so blessings to them both.
Let us know what you think of this poker power couple in the comments below.
Note: “Our preflop charts are the most efficient and absolute quickest way to improve your poker game. Download them and use them… they work!” – Doug Polk
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Natalie Faulk is a Las Vegas-based freelance writer/blogger and the author of several books. She is an avid low-stakes (for now) poker player and huge Vegas Golden Knights fan.