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Van Patten, Vince 1957–

Van Patten, Vince 1957–

(Vincent Van Patten)

PERSONAL:

Born October 17, 1957, in Bellerose, NY; son of Dick (an actor) and Pat Van Patten; married Betsy Russell, 1989 (divorced); married Eileen Davidson, April 15, 2003; children: (first marriage) Richard, Vince; (second marriage) Jesse Thomas.

ADDRESSES:

Home—Malibu, CA.

CAREER:

Professional tennis player, until 1986; professional poker player; actor; has had numerous episodic television roles, including in the series Medical Center, 1970-73, Ironside, 1971, The Courtship of Eddie's Father, 1971, Marcus Welby, M.D., 1971, Adam 12, 1971, Night Gallery, 1971, ABC Afterschool Specials, 1972, Bonanza, 1972, Gunsmoke, 1972-73, Barnaby Jones, 1973, Love, American Style, 1973, The Six Million Dollar Man, 1976, Wonder Woman, 1977, How the West Was Won, 1979, The Love Boat, 1981, and Matlock, 1990. Regular roles on television series, including Arnie, The Young and the Restless, 1973, Apple's Way, 1974-75, The Bionic Boy, 1976, and Baywatch, 1992-97; commentator on World Poker Tour, 2006—. Actor in television movies and specials, including Dial Hot Line, 1970, Three for the Road, 1974, James at 15, 1977, Gidget's Summer Reunion, 1985, Dirty Dozen: The Deadly Mission, 1987, When Billie Beat Bobby, 2001. Actor in movies, including Charlie and the Angel, 1973, Valdez, il mezzosangue, 1973, Survival Run, 1979, Rock 'n' Roll High School, 1979, Hell Night, 1981, Rooster: Spurs of Death, 1983, Payback, 1990, Camp Fear, 1991, The Break, 1995, Backyard Dogs, 2000, and Deal, 2007.

AWARDS, HONORS:

Rookie of the Year award, Association of Tennis Professionals, 1979; winner of Seiko World Super Tennis tournament, 1981; best director award, Port Hueneme International Film Festival, 2000, for The Flunky.

WRITINGS:

(Author of story and producer) The Break (screenplay), 1995.

(Coauthor and director) The Flunky (screenplay), 2000.

(And actor) Winning Texas Hold 'Em (video), 2004.

Mastering Bluffs and Tells in Poker (video), 2004.

Beat the Pros (video), 2004.

(With Robert J. Randisi) The Picasso Flop (mystery novel), Mysterious Press (New York, NY), 2007.

SIDELIGHTS:

Former tennis professional and actor, Vince Van Patten is now best known for his expertise in poker and as a cohost of the popular World Poker Tour television program. The youngest son of actor Dick Van Patten, the younger Van Patten caught the bug for both acting and poker from his father. As a teenager, he was already a successful actor, appearing most often in television roles, including regular roles in series such as Arnie and Apple's Way. He briefly had a starring role as the Bionic Boy, as well. While pursuing acting in the 1970s and 1980s, Van Patten was also a successful tennis player. He won a Rookie of the Year award in 1979, and in the early 1980s, reached the rank of twenty-fifth in the world, sometimes beating such masters of the game as Jose Louis Clerk and John McEnroe.

Retiring from professional play in 1986, Van Patten then continued to pursue acting roles, and even wrote and directed some screenplays. ‘After putting down his racquet, Vince returned to the film world, and in 1995 he saw his first original feature film, The Break, distributed theatrically by Trimark Pictures and released on home video by Vidmark,’ according to a profile on the Poker Babes Web site. ‘Produced by Vince and his brother James under the banner of their production company, Autumn Winds Productions, The Break stars Vince as Nick Irons, a hard-drinking, burned-out tennis pro whose bookie … forgives his gambling debts but forces him to coach his son, an awkward but promising 17-year-old who dreams of conquering the satellite tennis circuit.’ Van Patten's next film, The Flunky, which he cowrote and directed, earned him a director's award at the Port Hueneme International Film Festival. Despite such successes, Van Patten turned increasingly to his passion for poker. This also became the subject of his first mystery novel, The Picasso Flop, which he penned with established mystery writer Robert J. Randisi.

Van Patten has loved the card game since he was a boy watching his father host huge poker parties at their home. ‘My father had games in our house two-three times a week, and they were pretty good sized games,’ he told Craig Cunningham on the PokerWorks Web site. ‘People were yelling, laughing, throwing pizza boxes, and I was watching as a kid, and I said, ‘I've got to get into that. Whatever they're doing, I've got to get in there.’ My father started teaching me at a very early age. I started watching, he didn't mind me watching. By age 14, I was actually in those games, and they were good sized games back then. Then it just evolved. I used to put on a fake mustache and play in Gardena, that's true, and Vegas. Then on the tennis circuit I always used to have my chips with me and get cards out, always try and dig up a game.’ Van Patten played through the 1990s, becoming known as the ‘King of the Hollywood Home Games.’ He switched from the World Series to the World Poker Tour (WPT) in 2001. Then he was approached to host television coverage of the event with master poker player Mike Sexton. They started cohosting as commentators of poker events. By 2006 they were regularly hosting the matches, which had pots of well over one million dollars at stake for the winners. Van Patten has since become a familiar face on broadcasts of the WPT, which has become a popular television spectacle, as well as an online phenomenon.

Drawing on his considerable knowledge of the game, Van Patten has written several guides to playing poker, as well as a number of instructional videos. The Picasso Flop is his first fiction work. The title refers to the Jack, Queen, and King, which when held together in a Texas Hold 'Em poker hand are called a Picasso Flop. These cards are also left on the bodies of the victims in this mystery novel. The main character is Jimmy Spain, a professional poker player who has been away from the championship circuit for several years. Rumor has it that it was because he was in prison, and he shows up for his first return match with a protegé, Kat Landrigan. Kat is the daughter of Jimmy's friend, who has hired Jimmy as Kat's tutor, though Kat is unaware of this plan. While they play at the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas, several murders occur. Because of the playing cards left behind, Jimmy is brought into the case for his expertise. Kat is accused of the crimes, complicating matters further.

Van Patten naturally weaves in a great deal of detail about the game and setting, but reviewers sometimes objected to his plugs for the WPT and the online Web site, adding that the book is likely to appeal more to readers who understand poker than those who do not. Booklist contributor Frank Sennett considered the subplot about Jimmy and Kat fairly pointless, adding that ‘Randisi likely saved WPT commentator Van Patten from embarrassment here.’ Still, the critic described the book as a ‘quick, fun read despite its many flaws.’ Publishers Weekly reviewer also had problems with the subplot, adding that the reasons behind bringing Jimmy into the case ‘strain credulity.’ As with Sennett, though, the Publishers Weekly writer found likable points, including the main character and the descriptions of the poker playing, which is ‘done with flair and knowledge.’ Other critics were more positive, with Mary Ann Smyth asserting in Book Loons: ‘If you love poker, you will love The Picasso Flop. If you don't love poker, you will still enjoy The Picasso Flop."

In the PokerWorks interview with Cunningham, Van Patten agreed with the interviewer that there are some parallels between professional poker today and what was occuring in tennis back in the 1970s, when the game was not as formally established: ‘I understand your point, and who knows down the line if there will be a lot of money being given up as prize money, but these are the golden years of poker, truly. This is the cowboy time because the cowboys are putting up their own money. That's what's making it so exciting. When there's prize money at stake, and everybody's going to be rich (the guys who have done well for the last five years), no one else can get into a tournament, then it's going to become not as exciting at least in my point of view…. I think down the line they're going to try and change it, they're going to lock out the players, where you have to finish in the top 50, you have to have results. That's going to ruin it, as far as I'm concerned."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Booklist, February 15, 2007, Frank Sennett, review of The Picasso Flop, p. 42.

Publishers Weekly, December 4, 2006, review of The Picasso Flop, p. 38.

ONLINE

Armchair Interviews,http://reviews.armchairinterviews.com/ (November 2, 2007), Bob Pike, review of The Picasso Flop.

BookLoons,http://bookloons.com/ (November 2, 2007), Mary Ann Smyth, review of The Picasso Flop.

Poker Babes,http://www.poker-babes.com/ (November 2, 2007), profile of Vince Van Patten.

Poker-Vibe,http://www.poker-vibe.com/ (November 2, 2007), Will Reich, review of The Picasso Flop.

PokerWorks,http://pokerworks.com/ (November 2, 2007), Craig Cunningham, interview with Vince Van Patten.

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