In the game of poker holding one pair usually won’t get you very far, but during the 1990s model and actress, Pamela Anderson perfected the art of winning on the strength of a premium pair alone.
Born in Ladysmith, British Columbia, Canada on July 1st, 1967, Anderson first appeared in the public eye in 1989. While watching her hometown BC Lions compete in a Canadian Football League game, the then 22-year old’s natural beauty was broadcast, purely by happenstance, to the audience on the Jumbotron above. Wearing a tight-fitting T-shirt emblazoned with the logo for Labatt’s beer, Anderson’s blonde hair, blue eyes, and buxom body made her an immediate crowd favorite during her brief appearance on screen. Executives at Labatt’s took notice and hired her as a spokesmodel for local advertisements, and soon Anderson was poised to take the next step forward as a full-fledged professional model.
In October of 1989 she appeared on the cover of Playboy magazine, and by February of 1990 she was named “Playmate of the Month.” During the 1990s Anderson expanded her range to include acting, appearing first on the hit network sitcom Tool Time, before landing a career-defining role on the lifeguard drama Baywatch. Between 1992 and 1997 Anderson played “C.J. Parker,” donning a red swimsuit and saving lives on television screens all over the world. Anderson went on to appear as the lead in a feature film, and although Barb Wire was critically panned, her global image and impact only continued to expand.
Anderson also made news over the years by virtue of her romantic exploits. In 1995 she married Motley Crue drummer and rock bad boy Tommy Lee, having only met the man 96 hours prior. A video featuring footage shot during the couple’s honeymoon was stolen from Anderson’s home and released the same year, sparking the original celebrity sex scandal to take the internet by storm. After divorcing Lee in 1998 Anderson went on to become engaged to model Marcus Schenkenberg, before marrying singer Kid Rock in 2006. That union also resulted in a divorce.
In February of 2005 slot machine manufacturer, Bally Gaming and Systems announced the release of a Pamela Anderson Playboy line of slots. The slot machines went live at the Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas, with Anderson on hand to promote the product while signing autographs for fans.
Like many celebrities at the time, Anderson also began playing Texas Hold’em while the poker boom reached its peak as a mainstream fad. In July of 2006 Anderson held a press conference alongside none other than the “Godfather of Poker” himself, Doyle Brunson, during the height of that summer’s WSOP. The pair came together to announce the launch of PamelaPoker.com, a skin of DoylesRoom.com, Brunson’s own entry into the online poker arena. An article published by PokerNews at the time described Anderson’s involvement with online poker by observing:
“In a December 2004 poll taken by Empire poker, Anderson was voted the celebrity that online poker players would most like to have at their table. In April 2006, online players got that opportunity when Pamela Anderson became one of the regular celebrity bounties at Doyle’s Room’s popular weekly Bounty Tournament.
Anderson’s affiliation with the Doyle Brunson Poker Network deepened when she agreed to do a series of commercial spots for Doyle’s Room which debuted during Game Four of the NBA Championships between the Miami Heat and the Dallas Mavericks. Pamela Poker’s launch was announced during the mock wedding between Anderson and Brunson, staged during the 2006 WSOP.”
Anderson’s entrepreneurial timing proved to be disastrous, however, as the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) of 2006 was passed less than three months later. In October of that year, just weeks after the UIGEA’s passage was announced, PamelaPoker.com ceased all operations. Anderson later took to her online diary to address the situation:
“Poker site should have been shut down last month. I have nothing to do with it anymore. Too many shady areas. I really don’t want to encourage people to gamble. This must be turned off. It just didn’t work out. Even in my heart. Good luck to Doyle’s Room. I love him. He is authentic to the game. I made a mistake getting involved in something I know nothing about for a quick buck! Yuck. So unlike me. Glad it’s over.”
While Anderson’s further involvement with the game amounted merely to celebrity tournament appearances, during an appearance on the Ellen DeGeneres Show in September of 2007, Anderson alluded to a budding relationship with an anonymous high-rolling poker player to whom she was already engaged. As Anderson recalls, a few losing hands and a willingness to negotiate made her a winner in the game of love:
“I was playing poker one night… and I was down about 250 grand. He said if I made out with him, that would clear the [bet]. I paid off a poker debt with sexual favors and I fell in love. It’s so romantic.”
At the time the Las Vegas Review-Journal speculated that the beau in question was charismatic poker pro-Antonio Esfandiari. Just one month after announcing the engagement, however, Anderson was married to Rick Salomon – a serial celebrity spouse who had previously wed voice actress Elizabeth Daily and 1990s television star Shannen Doherty.
Salomon’s real claim to fame came in 2003 after he helped to leak a sex tape featuring footage of himself and celebrity heiress Paris Hilton. The tape took the internet by storm, launching Hilton’s career as a figure “famous for being famous,” while furthering Salomon’s reputation as a modern-day Lothario.
A regular at the so-called “Hollywood home games” ran by actor Tobey Maguire and cocktail waitress Molly Bloom between 2004 and 2010, Salomon regularly appeared in cash games with minimum buy-ins of $50,000. In 2014 Salomon showed off his poker chops on ESPN’s coverage of the Big One for One Drop high-roller tournament at the World Series of Poker. Boasting a buy-in of $1,000,000, the tournament attracted a healthy mix of multimillionaire businessmen and professional players. Of the 42 entrants in the event, Salomon managed an impressive fourth-place finish, enough to earn him a $2.8 million payout.
Anderson’s marriage to Salomon fell apart almost immediately, and the couple separated before seeking an annulment within 10 weeks of tying the knot. They would go on to marry again in 2014, before divorcing the following year. During the divorce proceedings, Anderson claimed in court documents that Salomon had won $40 million during the preceding year playing high-stakes cash games against billionaire Andy Beal.