PokerStars players hit the red carpet in Cannes

The black limos sat in a line, pitch-colored automotive sharks packed full of some of the world's biggest celebrities. Paparazzi jammed the velvet ropes, looking for that one shot that would earn them their daily nut. The carpet was a color of red that seems reserved for such gala events.

The invite list this night in Cannes was exclusive as it gets. Names like George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, and Don Cheadle sat at the top of the list. Every eye in the crowd was wide open and straining to get a look at the cast of the "Ocean's Thirteen."

A hand took the handle of a limo's door and opened it. Lightbulbs flashed. Everybody in the crowd craned their necks. Who emerged from the doors?

What few people in the crowd knew at that moment was that four tough poker players had battled their way to the top four places in a poker tournament to aid suffering in the Darfur region of Sudan. The charity Not On Our Watch was hosting the gala event and PokerStars had sent four of its players and more than $1 million to help the project. Now, these four players, JaspudUF, SM4RTASS, herbert, and berchem13, were walking the red carpet with the the world's biggest celebs.

Jason Lee & Matthew Seymour

Winner Daniel Smith, a 27-year-old lawyer from Florida, and his wife Ericka had quite a trip.

"PokerStars involvement with the charity is very admirable," he said. "PokerStars is, without a doubt, a first class company, and I believe trying to eradicate the genocide taking place in Darfur is a difficult, but extremely worthwhile endeavor. The representatives I met from PokerStars were extremely personable and you could tell this charity drive was a genuine from the heart activity."

Daniel and Ericka Smith with Anton Kolomiets

PokerStars player, Christian "berchem13" Gauche, had only been playing poker for a year when his fortune took a good turn. At 26 years old, he won a $109 event on PokerStars, qualified for the World Series, and won the trip to Cannes all in his first year.

Christian Gauche and girlfriend Magdalena Kurzeja

"To win a special trip like this one is something very special," he said from his home in Luxembourg.

"It was a great feeling to represent Pokerstars in Cannes for their charity. Such a donation shows also the world that poker is not only about doing money, money, money."

Like the other three winners, berchem13 made it to Cannes in time for the red carpet walk, was whisked by limousine to the party, and sat in on the worldwide premiere of the movie.

"The trip to Cannes was amazing," he said.

Each winner handled his trip differently. While berchem13 took his girlfriend, Holland's Anton Kolomiets (aka SM4RTASS) decided to take a buddy.

"The girls in Cannes are absolutely gorgeous, so it would have been a waste to bring just a single girl along," he joked.

Anton and his friend hit Cannes with full force.

"At first we just scouted the area a bit," he said. "The environment and landscape are gorgeous. Later on we got to meet the rest of the tournament winners, which were all very cool guys."

After that, he hit the city and premiere with full force. Afterward, Anton put his poker skills to good use.

"We went to an after party at a very exclusive place later on where we weren't really invited, but as poker players we bluffed our way in. We got to meet some of the cast, together with Quentin Tarantino and Kylie Minogue, among other celebs.

Anton Kolomiets and Doplh Lundgren

"I think it's great that PokerStars offers us the option to win exclusive trips like this, not available for the major public," Anton said. "Anyone can win money with sports betting, gambling, lottery etc, but you can't win this kind of stuff in most places."

Congratulations to all the players who made it to Cannes.

Coming up on June 5, four other PokerStars players will be hitting the gala premiere in Hollywood. Congratulations to H@££INGGOL, LAFMAN123, xBryceyx, and wushuplaya. Have fun in Hollywood!

Brad Willis
@BradWillis in