You probably remember Wil Wheaton from his staring roles on Star Trek: The Next Generation and as an aspiring writer in the movie Stand By Me, but you’ll soon find out there is a lot more to Wil than Wesley Crusher and Gordie Lachance. He’s had two books published, Dancing Barefoot, with its autobiographical short stories, and the recently published, Just A Geek, a funny yet poignant look at Wil’s life as an actor, writer, father and self-admitted Geek. He is the creative force behind WilWheaton.net, one of the most popular Blogs (Web Logs) on the internet that has an extremely loyal following, mainly due to Wil’s unflinching candor. On top of all that he’s a serious poker player and student of the game.
Note: EXPLICIT INTERVIEW – uncut, unrated, and totally uncensored.
PokerLizard: How did you first get interested in poker? Has it been a lifetime thing?
Wil: I sat and played dealer’s choice games my whole life you know the stupid games like all spades are wild and that type of crap when I was in elementary school, and then started playing VERY seriously in high school.
I was a fierce advocate of just straight seven card stud, I really dislike wild card games and always have because I always seem to get beat in them. I started playing Texas Hold’em in 10th or 11th grade and really loved it, for one thing there is a lot less to remember than seven card stud.
The thing I really enjoy a lot about poker is that it is a game of incomplete information and doing the best that you can without knowing all the variables, unlike, say, the game of chess.
Hold’em is great because there is so much less to remember and think about. I love that the game is so ridiculously popular now, because back then it was pretty hard to find a game.
PokerLizard: On the back cover of your new book, Just A Geek, you have a copy of Super System on your desk. Which poker books have you found the most beneficial?
Wil: My favorite poker book that I like to read and that I’ve reread many times is Positively Fifth Street by Jim McManus. I have to credit McManus for my desire to be a poker writer because I loved that book so much, not only did he capture sitting and playing tournament style, but he captured the World Series and captured Vegas, and captured it in all in a brilliant way. The way that Marty Scorsese captured the gangster lifestyle in Goodfellas – it’s not always glamorous – which is the same way McManus captured the poker lifestyle. I read that before I ever read The Biggest Game in Town and before I read Big Deal which are both BIG BIG favorites of mine. I think it’s interesting to see how Poker was in the “old” days and wonder how the older players feel when they see the new players getting $5 million for one tournament when a big payday back then was $100k. It’s also interesting to see how some guys self destruct after having success and where they are now.
As far as books that have made me a better player…obviously Super System is a great book, I think that if you’re going to play any kind of competitive level at all you sorta have to read that book because anyone who is serious already has; whether or not it is as useful as it once was I think is debatable.
The two books that have given me the greatest profit in my game are Lou Krieger’s Hold’em Excellence and Lee Jones’ Winning Low Limit Hold’em, absolutely, unquestionably the best book ever and I really hope, I sent a couple emails to lee and he seems like a great guy, I hope that book goes out of print right away because if people start reading it they’re going to stop losing and playing so poorly. Also Mike Caro’s Pro Poker Tells has been super useful to me. I’m really surprised that people haven’t tightened up and played better after watching Poker on television every night but the opposite has happened.
Here is a great example, this guy had 5-3 off and cracked my cowboys (two kings in the hole)…I was pissed, but over the long term these guys are the ones that pay you off.
PokerLizard: How bad were you steaming (inability to play your best because you are angry) after that bad beat?
Wil: I had to get up and leave, I was so mad, I got up and wanted to yell, “What the Fuck are you doing playing 5-3 after I raised before the flop you dumb shit”. Here’s what happened I had kings and the flop came 33x, I thought, “sweet I have two pair” and bet out the whole way and this dummy calls and raises me on the turn, I think there is no way this guy has a 3…but sure enough he ends up beating me.
PokerLizard: You mention Jim McManus as inspiring you to become a poker writer, do you have anything poker related in the works?
Wil: On my blog (WilWheaton.net) I have a short story called “Lying in Odessa” about my first poker tournament and I’ve used that story as a stepping off point for a book I’m writing called “Fish On” about my experiences with poker.
PokerLizard: What do you think about pro players having a hard time against all of the amateurs in this year’s World Series of Poker, some even stating that the amateurs were “unbluffable”?
Wil: I’m not a pro by any means, I consider my self a pretty strong mid-limit player and a REALLY strong low limit player, I am not real crazy about the no limit games for all that I’ve played, I’m still not quite there yet.
I’ve found that you almost have to play the NL game the same as the lower limits where it always goes to the showdown, people are calling you with nothing because they think if “Moneymaker” can do it so can I, and I think you have to play really tight and even more aggressively than you normally would.
In the very few games that I’ve played with celebrity people, a lot of books that I’ve read say you don’t want to play against actors, which is true, but not because they can act you out of a hand, it’s because they are really bad players and they call with stuff they should have never called with and they end up knocking you out and it just shows that HORRIBLE word variance.
PokerLizard: You recently filmed an episode of Hollywood Home Game. I know you can’t reveal any specifics, but can you let us know what is was like?
Wil: When I played on WPT’s (World Poker Tour) Hollywood Home Game I just caught NOTHING for the first few levels, I maybe played a couple hands and I started to get pissed because I’m a better player than the cards I’m getting …I don’t have anything to open with and it’s a one table tournament, and in a one table all it takes is someone to catch QQ or two big overcards a couple times and the good players are gone.
PokerLizard: What was the structure like? When is the episode set to air and what charity did you play for?
Wil: I think our blinds went up every 25 minutes. The show is airing in October I think, but the WPT website doesn’t have the information on there yet. I played for Electronic Frontier Foundation.
PokerLizard: What does the Electronic Frontier Foundation do?
Wil: The Electronic Frontier Foundation lobbies for Privacy Rights and Civil Liberties on the internet. They are very involved in dealing with things like the Patriot Act and Electronic Voting, you know bad Orwellian things that are hurting our freedoms. Basically, they are a voice for my side in the debate versus 97 Senators and the majority in the House.
PokerLizard: Are you doing any future shows with the WPT?
Wil: I got a seat in their invitational in February. I can’t talk about specifics (outcome or how I played) of the episode, but I had a really good time. The people who put on the show are really cool, an insanely class act top to bottom. They invited me back for two other shows in the future so I am definitely doing that! I’m still trying to get on Bravo’s Celebrity Poker Showdown but when we approached them about it last year they were sort of dismissive and were like “you aren’t a big enough celeb for the show”.
PokerLizard: Not a big enough celebrity? They have guys like Fred Willard on the show…
Wil: Fred Willard is Hollywood Royalty, he really is, maybe to our generation most don’t know his work but as an improv and sketch comedian he is one of those people that created the world I work in.
(It seems like younger people give the respect they should to the old guard), I was watching Doyle Brunson on the WSOP last night just pushing people around with NOTHING and it’s awesome because if people new to the game just recently started watching they’ve never really seen him play, they’ve seen him a little and getting knocked out but haven’t gotten to see him control the game and I wonder if he was just setting somebody up the whole time, like some new guy thinks he can actually beat Doyle after watching him get knocked out the last few years.
PokerLizard: Do you have any plans to play in the World Series of Poker (WSOP) in the future?
Wil: I was just reading Howard Lederer’s website for his 2003 WSOP reports and something really struck me at the very beginning, he said, NOW This is Howard Lederer were talking about, he said, “I’ve been playing all year long in No-Limit tournament games to get ready for the World Series because I never felt I was ready enough to play in that game.”
If HOWARD LEDERER feels that he has to spend a year on top of all his other experience to play in the No-Limit tournaments, I probably have a LOOONG way to go before I can compete and play competitively at that level. However, I definitely will play some satellites, the conventional wisdom of getting in on a super satellite is not very good compared to the investment and that it’s better to go on a straight satellite so we’ll see what happens. There are so many new championships cropping up all over the place. There are limit tournaments as well and I’m fairly confident in my limit Hold’em abilities, so it doesn’t just have to be the main event.
PokerLizard: Which pros would you like to play with?
Wil: It would have to be Howard Lederer, I really respect the way he plays, he’s very cerebral…he’s really earned the nickname “The Professor.”
In contrast, I was watching Gus Hansen play hands that I would never play, and it didn’t seem like he had a read on people, he played enough hands so often that he started to scare people because he was so aggressive…you know, if the only thing that’s going to beat you is if somebody’s playing 7-4 or something like that you have to wonder if maybe Gus has it.
PokerLizard: What is your style at the tables?
Wil: I play a real solid pretty conservative game, and it’s great to watch Lederer because he does that as well, he really uses betting to gain information and I would love to sit, not to play against him, but sit and talk with him. His sister (Annie Duke) is already teaching Ben Affleck and she’s obviously doing well with him.
PokerLizard: Do you play poker online?
Wil: I play at Pokerroom.com all the time because I run Mac and Linux. I know the poker sites really know what they’re doing and know how to make their money, but I wish they would open the game up to people with other computers (other than PC’s) and platforms. I understand that Pokerstars.com runs in the latest version of WINE for Linux but I don’t have the latest version. I may have to break down and get a PC, a good friend of mine paid for his whole new system through his winnings on Partypoker.
PokerLizard: What’s your user name on Pokerroom?
Wil: I’d rather not say, I don’t want people critiquing my play on the net.
PokerLizard: Earlier you mentioned a short story about the first real poker tournament you ever played in at an illegal club called “The Odessa” finishing in 3rd place, which also mentions a 7-4 hand, Have you ever been back to “The Odessa”? and does that hand still haunt you?
Wil: I’ll never forget that hand.
After that tournament at my theatre, the ACME comedy theatre, we do poker tournaments every so often, and the director had a tournament the week after I placed third at the Odessa, so a bunch of us go down there and it happened to be one of those 3 nights a year that it pours in LA, and I went down and I won, there were only 9 people but I knocked out all my buddies and it was great, I was on a rush from the moment I walked in, it was really cool, then I went on to play a couple of months of really really really bad cards, I got super aggressive for a while and started playing way too loose, and it absolutely decimated my bankroll.
Since then I have really backed off and spent a lot of time practicing my fundamentals online and playing some low limit games down at Commerce (a poker room in Los Angeles) and sort of putting my head back on straight and bring my game back around, and honestly it’s only been over the past couple weeks that I feel I’m back on top of my game.
PokerLizard: Are the games out in Los Angeles as crazy as people say?
Wil: In my experience, the games ARE as loose as people say, you have to showdown every single time, even if your playing in the 1-2, 4-8 or even in the 10-20 you HAVE to showdown every time. Every now and then you can sit down with enough regulars you might be able to push somebody out with a well-timed raise, but in most of the games I’ve played in it’s difficult to even effectively use check-raising just because people aren’t paying attention enough to other than their own hand.
In Larry Phillips book The Tao of Poker he talks about how people think that, “If I play too tight that when I enter a pot, everyone is going to get out” and he really dispels that myth in that your opponents are only thinking about themselves and that when you get out of the pot they think “cool” because it’s just one less person they have to fight against.
You know I really believe in the theory of implicit collusion (in a nutshell the theory of implicit collusion means that when there are a lot of players in the pot it is more likely that someone with a bad hand will beat you) and when someone gets out of a pot I’m really happy about it.
I was just telling my stepson that if you just play and learn Sklansky’s (David Sklansky is the author of Hold’em Poker) starting hand requirements and you just play that and know to get out of the hand if the flop misses you you’re going to win more than you lose. If you can add to your game that you’re watching your opponents and figure out that this guy plays a lot of hands or that guy only plays when he’s got the nuts then you can completely dominate a game.
Let me mention one thing, I have a lot of respect for the poker bloggers and I think that they are going to be having a really big impact, on the online poker community eventually, you know that mainstream of anything tends to look down on bloggers or they ignore us altogether and I think they do that to their peril.
I learn so much reading their websites and I also enjoy it a lot, it keeps my enthusiasm for the game up and I feel like I’m not the only guy who just got killed because some guy spiked his 3 out draw or whatever and those guys are awesome and I just wanted to take a second and recognize those guys… and say some things and pretend I’m all hip-hop like, “I gotta recognize.”
PokerLizard: The number of poker blogs out there is mind boggling.
Wil: Yeah and you know with anything, when the number of something increases the quality tends to decrease over all but with the poker blogs I haven’t seen that at all it’s still really really good because everybody brings their own thing to the table, their own experiences, their own prejudices, their own life, and it effects the way that they play and it effects the way that they interpret the game.
For a long time I used baseball as a metaphor for everything that goes on in my life and poker is just as good and just as solid. It’s really terrific to read other people because there is so much to learn from them…that’s why I started reading the Tao of Poker because there is so much that we can learn as poker players and apply to our lives. For example, I was in a negotiation recently and I was really sort of getting dicked around by the person I was negotiating with and I remember turning to my wife and saying, “You know what, I’m going all in, I’m coming over the top of him and I’m going all in…this is the way it is or I’m walking away, and they ended up folding and I was really happy about that, If I didn’t play poker maybe I wouldn’t have thought that way”
I hope that doesn’t make me sound like a huge dick when that’s in print.
PokerLizard: Poker does seem to be permeating our lives these days.
Wil: Poker is our generation’s bridge.
PokerLizard: Yeah, Bridge I could never figure out!
Wil: Me neither and it bummed me out. I’d open up the newspaper, and I’d look at the crossword, fill out the 4 things that I knew how to do, get frustrated, give up, but there’s bridge right next to it…it’s like Bridge and Ziggy are the only things left. The thing in the paper is like, “you’re holding and seats one, two and three do this, and the board says this” and your supposed to figure out what to do next…
PokerLizard: I always went back to “what’s the difference between the two pictures”…then I’d hit the Jumble.
Wil: Man, I love the Jumble! For awhile when I was in High School and working on Star Trek, I got to do the Jumble every day because my tutor figured that it was sort of educational and encouraged critical thinking and pattern recognition, that type of stuff, and would let me do the Jumble every day, and I got really good at the Jumble I’m not so good at it now, but when I was a kid I owned the Jumble.
PokerLizard: Obligatory PokerLizard Question – If you were Matt Damon in Rounders how long would it have taken you to kick your “prudish” girlfriend to the curb and get with Famke Janssen?
Wil: Boy, that’s a good question, I think maybe his prudish girlfriend swallows. Also I don’t know if I’d want to be with someone who is a better player than me.
PokerLizard: Yes, but he flopped the nuts…and then he folded!
Wil: So True…
—– Wil Talks Hollywood from this point on with a smattering of poker—–
PokerLizard: This past weekend, you were at the James Doohan “Mr. Scotty” Farewell Dinner. How is he doing and what was your experience there?
Wil: I just put it up on my website yesterday, but I can give you my overall impression. I was really impressed and not surprised at the number of people who came out to attend this event. Anybody who has ever met him will say what I’m about to say. He makes you feel like you’re part of his family. Jimmy really appreciates Star Trek fans and is really so open and patient with them and kind and loving and wonderful to them. I’ve tried to model myself after him in terms of the way that I interact with the fans and the way that I behave at conventions and stuff. I have noticed that the actors who are the most standoffish, the actors who give the fans the least command the highest speaking fees, show up for the least amount of time, and are the most coveted convention guests out there. The actors who work really, really hard to make it special for the fans, like Jimmy, the actors who stick around for hours to answer everybody’s question, like Jimmy, the actors who go there and will sign autographs until their arm falls off, like Jimmy, they’re not respected by the promoters, and for the amount they put out, they never get back what they deserve. Where they do get it back is from the Star Trek fans and how much the fans love them.
For me, I just want to have a positive impact on people’s lives one way or another. What I really learned from being around him and from being around George, and people like Jonathan Frakes from my cast is that it’s really wonderful to have this opportunity to just be cool to people and to make them so unbelievably happy. It’s like the pot odds on making somebody happy. You know, you’re getting like 80-to-1 just for showing up and it’s great – like why would anybody from Star Trek not take that opportunity – you know what I mean?
So I went to this thing for him. I found out about it at the last minute – I cancelled a whole bunch of things – I moved my schedule around like crazy because I thought it was really important to go and be there. He is such an incredibly kind and loving and sweet man and it’s good that he is honored the way he is. Because if you ask any engineer who inspired them – if they’re in their mid 30’s or older -they’re going to tell you it was Scotty. That’s what Neil Armstrong said.
PokerLizard: Was he happy with the way his career turned out? Mainly being that he was only in Star Trek? Did he wish he could have done other roles?
Wil: I’m not sure – we never talked about that. I know for me and if you’ve read my book, you know that it really pushed me around a lot. I am not happy if Star Trek is the only thing that I do with my life – but I really can’t speak for anybody else. I don’t know how they feel about it. As far as I can tell, Jimmy just seemed really happy to make other people happy. He gave it as good as he got it. He gave out love to people and they gave it right back to him.
PokerLizard: Almost like the Arnold Palmer of the movies….
Wil: Yeah, you’re right! That’s a really good analogy.
PokerLizard: It seems like most of the other actors on Star Trek
– it seems like they love it and they are still milking it – they’re happy with that being their identity – they’re rolling with it..
Wil: Well, you know what’s interesting, I was thinking about this recently. If an actor plays the same role their entire career, there’s this tendency to kind of look down on them and kind of dismiss that. But if somebody spends their entire career working for Lockheed – well, that’s a great career. If someone spends their entire career working in the accounting department at some big firm or whatever, then we say “Yeah, he had a great career”. But if somebody spends their entire life playing the same character, and they become so identified with that character that nobody else can even come close to touching that character, there’s this thing in Hollywood where Hollywood goes “Ooh – yeah – you’re only whatever.” And you have great versatile actors who do lots of varied characters like Robert DeNiro, like Ed Norton, like Matt Damon – these guys do all sorts of incredibly different characters.
You have actors who I think are not very good who basically play the same character all the time but trick people into thinking it’s some kind of different character – like – I better not say the big actors because then I’ll never work again. Well, I think Tom Cruise is a really lousy actor and a really overrated actor. Yeah..well..you know…it’s not like I have a career anyway.
PokerLizard: My brother says the same thing. All his movies – it’s like Top Gun, Top Bartender, Top Spy, it’s the same guy over and over…
Wil: It drives me crazy and I haven’t seen Collateral yet and I’m really on the fence about it because I love Jamie Foxx and I fucking LOVE Michael Mann. And I love that they made a movie in Los Angeles about Los Angeles. I think that’s great. And I’m really on the fence about it because I’m pretty sure that at some point in that movie, Tom Cruise is going to be sitting down and then he’s going to jump up and start screaming for no reason. You know – it’s just gonna come out somewhere. He does it in every single movie. It’s like I’ve got to have that moment where I do my yelling thing.
PokerLizard: Is it the yelling that gets more parts?
Wil: He’s a movie star. There’s a big, big, big difference between actors and movie stars. Occasionally, an actor will become a movie star. I’ve been really frustrated with the lack of media that has acknowledged the existence of my book. Like, it’s really been minimal. Hardly anybody has paid attention to it. It’s really frustrating to me. If Paris “Fucking” Hilton announces she’s going to write a book – yeah, cause she’s going to sit down and spend her time writing -and it’s everywhere! It’s on a fucking AP wire!!
PokerLizard: You’ve got to give into the junk rags at the grocery store..
Wil: You know, it’s too bad that I don’t have a video of myself having disinterested sex with someone. It’s the difference between “artist” and sort of “personality”. There are people who are sort of famous for being famous, you know? And we go and see them because of spectacle or whatever.
PokerLizard: Looking at the brutal audition process that you have to go through and waiting for callbacks, do you think your book should be required reading for all prospective actors?
Wil: I’ve heard from a lot of actors who have read it and have applauded my courage in telling it like it is. Cause apparently nobody will do that you know, they’re all afraid, and I used to be afraid too, but I eventually realized that being afraid wasn’t getting me anywhere. It’s not like keeping quiet was paying off in any way.
PokerLizard: Do you think that the book and your weblog has raised flags in the acting community for the hiring producers?
Wil: I wish it was that important. (laughs) I don’t think so. My website has definitely created a few work opportunities for me – I don’t know if it has cost me any work opportunities. I always tell people who want to be actors that you really have to, and I think I write it in my book, that you have to love the two times a year you get to work more than you hate the hundreds of hours you spend being frustrated and being treated like crap and not going anywhere. It’s got to be so worth it to you. Because the odds are so overwhelmingly against you getting anywhere. To use a poker analogy, the odds against you getting a playable are extraordinarily low, and then, once you get a playable hand, the odds of it being the best hand that carries you up to the next level are even greater.
PokerLizard: Do you think that’s why actors love poker so much, because of that once in a lifetime big hit – score?
Wil: Could be. More moments of boredom puncuated by short moments of extreme terror.
PokerLizard: You were in drama school for several years and you had to turn down a lot of movie offers at the time. Looking back on it, are you glad you went to drama school?
Wil: Yeah – absolutely, because at that time, I felt like I had really gotten by all my life on my instincts only – and that I really didn’t have any real technique. So I felt like without technique, I was always sort of held back. I use the analogy of Luke Skywalker and Dagobah a lot. I can make the lightsaber jump into my hand but I don’t know if I will be able to lift the spaceship out of the swamp without some training, you know? If I hadn’t gone to drama school, I would have spent my entire life wondering – could I have done more – could I have gotten farther if I had some training – would I have gotten that part. At the time, I felt like I was only getting – if I auditioned for something – I didn’t get it. And the only work that I was offered was offered to me because of Star Trek or because of my previous work and none of it was really very good.
PokerLizard: I thought one of your more interesting roles was in Mr. Stitch. What was it like making this movie and working with Roger Avary?
Wil: I really enjoyed working with Roger Avary. He was extraordinarily creative and really focused. Roger didn’t care if nobody “got” what he was doing. He had a vision. He had a thing that he wanted to make. He had a story that he wanted to tell. He had the whole thing already put together in his head and he wasn’t going to let anybody dissuade him from what he wanted to do. I really enjoyed working with him. I felt like he was a very solid director and a very good writer and he gave very good, very clear direction and he didn’t overdirect and he communicated very well with me. Mr. Stitch really disappoints me because Rutger Hauer was a fucking asshole! He was unprofessional, he was unprepared, he never knew his lines, he was arrogant, he was changing the dialogue, my dialogue, and his dialogue all the time – and the movie suffers because of him.
PokerLizard: Was he not listening to Roger?
Wil: No, he was a producer on the project so he could do whatever he wanted to do. What he started doing was he wanted a cane with a sword in it, which he had done in some other movie. Then he wanted like a raven, which he had done in some other movie. I remember thinking “Come on you dummy, this movie could do for you what Pulp Fiction did for John Travolta! You know, it could break you out – it could legitimize you. Or, you could be the Hitcher for the rest of your life”. And he was so arrogant and so unprofessional and so lousy that I think the movie really suffers because of it. I watched on Sci-Fi a couple of nights ago – I just saw it by accident – it’s funny – I stay up late at night in the hopes that I’ll catch poker on TV that I haven’t seen yet. It’s a weird, interesting kind of thing. But it’s not as good, and solid, and great as it could be. And it’s because Roger had to make huge changes in the editing room and then we had to make huge changes on the set because Rutger just refused to do what he was hired to do. And I remember very clearly at one point I said to Roger “I’m really concerned because I signed on to make one particular movie and Rutger’s making so many changes to the material that we’re making a totally different movie.” And Roger said “You know what, you’re right. Let’s go sit down and talk to him about it.” So we went and sat on the stage and asked everybody to leave the stage -which was a very expensive thing to do – which is something we don’t do very often – and I said “Listen, I’m real concerned. I’m worried about this movie. I’m worried about the way it’s going. And I think that” and Rutger cuts me off and says “I don’t give a fuck what you think.” And I stood up – I remember clearly – I was sitting on the edge of that weird little black bed thing that Mr. Stitch comes climbing up out of – and I said “Well, Rutger, I’m an actor in this movie also and I’m really sorry that you don’t care what I think, but if you’re going to continue to behave like this, I have no interest in finishing this movie.” And I walked out of the stage. And about 25 minutes later, he came over and apologized and said he was sorry that he was rude and sort of behaved himself the rest of that day. But the very next day he was right back to the way that he was.
There was a lot about that movie that I loved. I got to live in Nice. I had an apartment that was two blocks from the Mediterranean. And I was able to really commit to that character. I wasn’t dating anyone at the time. I didn’t have any distractions in my life. I was far away from my friends and my family so I could just be part of this movie. I loved getting that makeup put on every single day. Because I was in makeup all the time and because I wore a wig, I was able to shave my head for the first time in my life. That was really exciting for me. I had always wanted to do that I had never been able to before. It was neat to live in a different culture and speak a different language and experience a completely different lifestyle than what I’m used to. I would very much like to go back to the south of France and live there when I retire.
PokerLizard: When you were 12 years old, you wrote a horror story called Land of the Zombies, inspired by George Romero’s Dead movies. Now that George Romero is getting ready to make Land of the Dead, would you be interested in being in that movie?
Wil: Oh yeah, absolutely. Yeah, I really, really would. You know, it’s really hard not to be cynical, not to feel just defeated, but I’ve worked so hard to let Hollywood know and let the industry know that I’m 32 years old and there are people who are interested in seeing me in movies and I want to be in movies but they keep slamming doors in my face.
PokerLizard: As an actor, can you contact a director?
Wil: No. Maybe some people can. There are definitely some people who can do that. I am absolutely not one of them.
PokerLizard: Would doing that blacklist you?
Wil: In this industry, there’s just not a lot of time for things. There is so much money involved, and nowadays, creative people do not run the entertainment industry; accountants run it. The studios are owned by corporations who are not in the business of making movies. A great example is Universal is owned by Seagrams – Seagrams makes booze – Sony makes consumer electronics – Disney runs theme parks and makes toys. For a lot of the studios, the primary focus is not creating great art, and it’s not on creating great entertainment, that’s just something that they “also” do. So, when they sit down to cast a movie, very rarely does a studio say “Alright, who are the best actors for this?” They say, “Who are the big stars they can put in this picture?” From a business perspective, that makes a whole bunch of sense. If you put Jennifer Lopez in your movie, and you are guaranteed that the distributor for France or the distributor for China is gonna give you “X” number of millions of dollars, then you’re silly not to take that. If the choice is between me and some actor that is really really famous because right now they are on a very hot TV show, they’re going to go with the other actor of course because that other actor has a built in audience. That’s just the cold reality of business.
PokerLizard: What would you say to Jimmy Kimmel’s cousin Sal if you ever ran into him? (In Wil’s book, he relays the brutal story about how the producers of “Win Ben Stein’s Money” were looking for a replacement for Kimmel, and Wil nailed the audition. They loved him, called him to tell him so, etc….and in the 11th hour, Jimmy’s cousin Sal swooped in and got the job.)
Wil: “Nice hand.” It was like I was sitting there with a straight and a flush draw is on the board and he gets the flush on the river to beat my straight.
PokerLizard: What do you think of the new Starfleet Academy project? Do you think this concept could work since it would be so different from all of the recent Star Trek projects?
Wil: “I’m more of a fan of the older style, when it was about characters and secular humanism it works well. Once it becomes about girls in tight space suits running around…the whole thing just starts to suffer. If you have a strong cast of characters and the story revolves around them, all of the rest just doesn’t matter.”
PokerLizard: Are you an ‘iPod player’, like Annie Duke and Phil Hellmuth?
Wil: “I have brought the iPod to some games, and my favorite album to listen to is “Ferment” by The Catherine Wheel, which just makes me really happy. I can still watch the other players’ actions and have some conversation. Overall I’m not a full-time iPod listener, but I do like it occasionally.” I read an interesting quote from Amarillo Slim that he has a hard time playing against headphone wearers since they can’t be psyched out by his chatter. Generally, I just like to play it by ear I don’t wear sunglasses or a baseball cap when I play, I try to sit there with my hand on my chin because I have a tell…when I get interested in a hand I tend to sit up in my chair, so by keeping my hand on my chin I can prevent giving away too much.
Thank you Mr. Wheaton for the great interview!
Wil is also working on his first poker book, inspired by his short story, “Lying in Odessa.” This “mostly fiction” work will be based on his playing experiences and will aim to “capture the moment” of sitting at a poker table, much like Positively Fifth Street. Scheduled for a Spring 2005 release, the upcoming book is a work in progress on Wil’s web site/blog wilwheaton.net, under the title of “Fish On.”
If you liked this interview please consider making a small donation, all proceeds will go toward my children’s college fund, Thanks.