LOS ANGELES—Adult performer Samantha Ryan has landed a sponsorship with one of the largest online poker card rooms in the world, UltimateBet, which will back her in five World Series of Poker events beginning this week.
If Ryan plays well enough and generates enough publicity she could secure a spot in the World Series of Poker main event, which is nationally televised on ESPN.
“I’m going to have the opportunity to win hundreds of thousands of dollars,” Ryan said. “This could be life-changing.”
A poker player for the past seven years and a porn star since 2004, Ryan said the UltimateBet sponsorship is a rare opportunity for her to turn one of her passions into a lucrative career.
“The reason they’re kind of going with me on this is that I am a porn star and it’s going to drum up a little bit of controversy,” she explained. But the Kansas native can also hold her own at any poker table. Ryan during the past five weeks has played in five different charity poker events, donating all her winnings and even beating former baseball great Jose Canseco in a hand along the way.
“That’s exactly what I wanted to be doing—is philanthropy,” she said.
Through Ryan’s friends in the poker community she got a call to fill in at one recent celebrity event, where she by chance sat next to the boyfriend of Annie Duke, another friend of Ryan’s who is one of the most famous players in the world. A contestant on “Celebrity Apprentice” in 2009, Duke won a bracelet in the 2004 World Series of Poker, a honor considered the most coveted non-monetary prize a poker player can win. She also won the 2004 World Series of Poker Tournament of Champions, earning the $2,000,000 winner-take-all prize in the process. Duke has been a spokesperson for UltimateBet for the past decade, and coincidentally attends the same Bikram yoga class as Ryan.
“So I sat next to her boyfriend Joe and was telling him about myself and he was super impressed by me. He had no idea what I did and he spoke up and said something to Annie. Now I’m completely floored, completely in shock,” Ryan said. “I will be sponsored in five events. I just got my UB patches. I’ll put a patch on my clothes and I’ll be wearing different UB gear throughout the tournament. It’s cool because a lot of my fans are going to play in the World Series. You can find out my events and my schedule by following me on Twitter @SammyRyRy, and on the calendar on my website, samantharyanlive.com.”
The first 56 events in the World Series of Poker are contested over the next month and a half through July until the top players arrive at the final table, or main event, which takes place in November. Each event is played at the Amazon Room at the Rio Hotel.
“I’ll practically move to Vegas for the next month and a half,” said Ryan, who formerly played on a professional blackjack team. “I started playing poker back when I was doing real estate before I got into the industry. The guys I did real estate with taught me to play. Then I started playing online four years ago. Poker’s really been my main game. Blackjack came along halfway through all that.”
Ryan says she has gained most of her poker experience online because she never had the bankroll to play live tables.
“Four years ago I started playing for real online and had good results,” she said. “I final-tabled a couple times in events with over 1,000 people. There is an element of luck, especially in the World Series. The events I’m playing in are going to be three to five days with fields of 3,000 to 5,000 players. I’ll be playing poker from noon until midnight every day that I’m playing as long as I’m still in it. I’ll be putting live updates on Twitter, and will try and do some video on my website.”
Ryan’s most recent XXX work included a girl/girl scene with Avy Scott in New Sensations’ The Intern and a boy/girl with Evan Stone for Wicked Pictures.
“I will be available for work on limited days throughout but it might be good to get me while you can,” Ryan said.
In March Ryan received national notoriety for her love of the University Kansas Jayhawk basketball team, which was the No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. The performer became a hot topic in media circles because she received free tickets from a KU assistant coach to the March 3 game in Lawrence, Kan., between KU and Kansas State.