Nelly, Panic Bassist, Cee-Lo And Kevin Smith Playing Poker Together? What Are The Odds?!

'Hills' regular Brody Jenner, Josh Homme and Ryan Cabrera also got in on the pre-VMA tourney.

LAS VEGAS — What do Nelly, Kevin Smith, Joe Simpson, “The Hills” regular Brody Jenner and Queens of the Stone Age frontman Josh Homme all have in common? Well, before Saturday afternoon (September 8), the answer would have been abso-friggin’-lutely nothing. But it turns out they actually all share a common love … for the game of poker.

On this fine day in Las Vegas, little more than 24 hours before the 2007 MTV Video Music Awards were to take over the Palms Casino Resort (see “Nicole Scherzinger To Rock VMA Preshow — With Lil Wayne!” ), the five celebs took part in Rolling Stone‘s celebrity-poker tournament — part of the mag’s 40th anniversary celebration — which was held inside the Joint at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino.

But the list of would-be card sharks didn’t end there. Panic! at the Disco bassist Jon Walker, Cee-Lo, System of a Down drummer John Dolmayan, Three 6 Mafia’s DJ Paul, Peter Bjorn and John leader Peter Morén, the Eagles of Death Metal’s Brian “Big Hands” O’Connor, Biohazard’s Evan Seinfeld and a long-locked, goatee-sportin’ Ryan Cabrera were also involved in what was an unusual hodgepodge of personalities. Retired NBA great John “Spider” Salley and “Real World” alum Mike “The Miz” Mizanin rounded out the bizarre bunch. (Equally bizarre: Cee-Lo, Homme and others will join Foo Fighters at Sunday’s VMAs for Led Zeppelin and Prince covers and much more.)

The action unfolded across 15 tables, with the celebs going up against an assortment of regular Joes who’d either bought into the game or won the chance to compete through a raffle that preceded play.

For much of the tourney, the Joint was dead quiet, except for the tinny echoes of chips clinking together as they bounced across the felt tables. Oh, and the calm was routinely interrupted by the booming ruminations of Mizanin, who attempted to psych out his competition by studying what he believed to be their tells: “That guy blinks a lot whenever he gets a good card, and this dude drinks a sip of water whenever he gets a card he likes,” he said. At one point Homme, who was seated at the adjacent table, looked over with disdain at “The Miz” and seemed to be contemplating his next move — hit him or don’t hit him.

He didn’t hit him.

Comely cocktail waitresses in short-shorts and fishnets circled the tables, serving drinks and taking orders. Meanwhile, Nelly filled in MTV News on his poker strategy.

“Hopefully I’ll just turn out to be average,” said the rapper, who later admitted he’s not the best when it comes to gambling. “I just don’t want to embarrass myself, so we’ll see what happens.”

Homme is a Vegas regular and admits he doesn’t always leave town on an even note.

“I lost a couple grand once, but I’m a big drinker, so I don’t really remember,” he explained. “But I make up for it in drinks — drinks and smiles and hugs. One time I won $8,000 — I stole it off an old couple as they were coming out the front of the Hard Rock, actually.”

Like Nelly, Homme also revealed his strategy for the game: “I recommend that all the other players drink heavily, and I keep it pretty tight and sober. That’s what I always recommend.” But he added that he doesn’t have any gambling rituals to keep his good luck up. “I’m not superstitious, although I do have to wear the same shoes all the time — so I guess I just lied,” he said.

Joe Simpson, Ashlee and Jessica’s papa, wasn’t quite sure how he’d fare in the game but did have much to say about Sunday’s VMAs, Justin Timberlake and Ms. Spears’ big comeback (see “Exclusive: Inside Britney Spears’ VMA Rehearsal” and “Britney Spears To Open 2007 MTV Video Music Awards: It’s Official!” ).

“I think Justin Timberlake’s going to come out a big winner,” he said. “I don’t know how you get better than that. I’m also excited to see what [Timbaland] puts together for the big show — Ashlee’s making a record with Tim now. And I love Britney — I hope she tears it up and shows everybody she’s still it, and I think she has every opportunity to do so.”

Kevin Smith is also looking forward to this year’s VMAs. “I just want to see if Britney will wear underwear this time,” he said.

Wait — don’t cash out on the VMAs just yet! From Britney’s sultry comeback performance to the big winners, you saw it all — well, almost everything! Get yourself even richer with our wall-to-wall show coverage, party reports, videos and loads more at www.VMA.MTV.com. For reports, photos, video and much, much more from previous VMAs, dive into the VMA archives.