When you think of poker, high stakes, bluffing, and tension-filled tables might spring to mind. But another aspect of this game that often goes unnoticed — charity. Over the years, poker has served as a platform for raising significant funds for various charitable causes, demonstrating that the love for the game can translate into a meaningful, positive impact.
Poker Tournaments with a Heart
Many organizations and individuals have realized the potential of poker as a fundraising tool. Charitable poker tournaments have become increasingly popular, merging the thrill of the game with the noble cause of giving.
One such event is the “Big One for One Drop” tournament, which debuted at the World Series of Poker (WSOP) in 2012. The One Drop Foundation, established by Cirque du Soleil founder Guy Laliberté, is dedicated to providing access to safe water. The $1 million buy-in event donates $111,111 from each entry to the foundation, and it’s raised millions to date.
Similarly, the annual “Charity Series of Poker” (CSOP) hosts fundraising events for various charities. Since its inception in 2014, CSOP has generated hundreds of thousands of dollars for organizations like Three Square Food Bank and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
Celebrity Involvement: Dealing with a Cause
The allure of poker reaches far beyond professional players, enticing celebrities who bring additional attention to these charitable events. Such instances not only heighten the event’s visibility but also emphasize the commitment of these celebrities toward social causes.
Actor Ben Affleck, a well-known poker enthusiast, has hosted several charity poker events. In mid-2020, he organized an online poker tournament to benefit Feeding America, a non-profit organization dedicated to fighting domestic hunger. The event attracted fellow celebrities like Tom Brady, Bryan Cranston, and Adam Sandler and raised over $1 million.
Similarly, comedian Kevin Hart has leveraged his love for poker to support charitable causes. Hart teamed up with PokerStars in 2017 to launch “Helping Hands,” a campaign that used poker to raise money for various charities.
PokerStars’ Charity Events
PokerStars, one of the most prominent online poker platforms, has demonstrated a long-standing commitment to charity. They’ve hosted numerous charity tournaments featuring celebrities and poker pros, with proceeds going to various causes. In 2020, PokerStars ran a $1 million guaranteed charity tournament to help in the fight against COVID-19, raising a massive $735,000 in donations.
Jennifer Tilly: A Celebrity with a Cause
Academy Award nominee Jennifer Tilly, a notable poker player and star of the stage and screen, has used her poker prowess to raise funds for charity. She has participated in the “Ante Up for Africa” charity poker tournament, a platform that raises money and awareness for the crisis-torn region of Darfur, Sudan.
Shannon Elizabeth’s Philanthropic Poker
Actress and dedicated poker player Shannon Elizabeth established her own non-profit animal rescue organization, Animal Avengers. Using her influence and love for poker, she has hosted charity poker tournaments, where the proceeds go towards the protection and welfare of animals.
The future for poker and philanthropy appears bright, with the game continuing to serve as a robust platform for raising funds and awareness for various causes. Whether it’s professional poker players, celebrities, or casual players, the opportunity to use the game they love to support a good cause resonates with many. The fusion of poker and charity showcases a more compassionate side of the game, where dealing a winning hand means making a difference in the world.