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Wes Studi talks acting and gambling at Seminole Hard Rock

Correspondent

“My life is a gamble,” says actor Wes Studi, who stars in “Hostiles,” which is currently playing in theaters. He and other Native American entertainers appeared this past weekend at the 47th annual Seminole Tribal Fair and Pow Wow at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino (1 Seminole Way, Hollywood, 800-937-0010, SeminoleHardRockHollywood.com).

Studi is a full-blood member of Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma. His tribe operates 10 casinos, including Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Tulsa, but he doesn’t bet much. “I hit a slot [machine] just to be social now and then. But I don’t get a big thrill,” he told me. “Whether I work or not is pretty much a gamble.”

Over his career, Studi has portrayed “Toughest Pawnee” in “Dances With Wolves” and played Indian warriors Geronimo, Red Cloud, Wovoka and Cochise. He’s also had prominent roles in “Avatar,” “Street Fighter” and many other films.

In “Hostiles,” he portrays an elderly Cheyenne warrior who in 1892 is escorted by a U.S. Army captain (Christian Bale) from a prison in New Mexico to Montana. The two men are longtime mortal enemies, but the captain has orders to take the physically and spiritually weakened chief to historic tribal land, where he can die peacefully.

The movie is emotionally intense and, at its core, about changing relationships among various Indian and white factions. Anger, hatred, fear, love and redemption rise along the trek.

“It’s an emotional roller coaster of a film,” Studi said as we sat near the lagoon-style pool outside the Hard Rock. “It takes you up and down, and [there’s] very little relief from it all.”

Studi, 70, was a real-life warrior who fought for the U.S. Army in Vietnam. He knows firsthand how bad war can be.

“In the long run, ‘Hostiles’ deals with the fact that we’re all human one way or another, and [fighting] affects us in a deeply disturbing way,” he said.

Studi may not gamble much, but he made a cameo as a bingo caller in the 2001 comedy “Christmas in the Clouds.” That was another role he performed in real life.

“I was a caller for a bingo operation in northeastern Oklahoma before Cherokee Nation ever got started into casinos,” he said.

After he called out a number, players placed corn kernels on their bingo cards.

“You did it by using a whole ear of corn” in a session, he said.

As many South Florida residents know, just a few hundred yards south of the Hard Rock is Seminole Classic Casino (4150 N. State Road 7, Hollywood, 954-961-3220, SeminoleClassicCasino.com), which in 1979 opened as the first high-stakes bingo hall on an Indian reservation in the country. It jump-started the entire Indian gambling industry.

TURBO-CHARGED

At the Seminoles’ other casino in Broward County, Seminole Casino Coconut Creek (5550 NW 40th St., 954-977-6700, CasinoCoco.com), the 10-day World Series of Poker Circuit is running until Sunday, Feb. 18. In recent action, Robert Tanner won Event 4, the $365 No-Limit Hold ’Em Double Stack Turbo. He defeated 255 entries to walk with $18,810 and a gold ring. The purse was guaranteed at $30,000 but soared to $76,800.

This weekend, from Friday to Monday, you can play in the $1,675 Main Event No-Limit Hold ’Em, which will pay out at least $1 million plus a gold ring.

david@davidraterman.com

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