NAPT Venetian: Helping hunger, bringing the T-Pain

napt-thumb.jpgIt must be a fever dream. It has to be, because there is no scenario in the world that would paint such a picture.

Camera flashes are everywhere and in between each strobe it looks like actor Christian Slater is sitting next to guitarist Slash. And Slash is sitting next to Major League Baseball legend Orel Hershiser. And Hershiser is digging in his pocket for tipping singles so it doesn't seem to impolite when he pulls three bottles of Fiji water off a server's tray. He distributes them to Slater and Slash like it's no big woop, and Slater thanks him, but can't say more. The action is on the actor.

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The flashes go off again, a visual cacophony of little cameras and big cameras. The fever dream continues. Those three guys are playing poker and there is a rail four-deep with looky-loos.

It's not dream, and while a fevered head may have a hard time taking it in, this is how the NAPT Venetian event began tonight. Four tables of the world's celebrities sat down for a re-buy tournament to benefit Three Square, a Las Vegas charity that provides food to hundreds of organizations in an effort to end hunger in Southern Nevada. When it was all over, the event had raised nearly $43,000 for the charity.

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Three Square CFO Andy Schuricht and NAPT Managing Director, Jeffrey Haas

It's almost easier to list the people who weren't involved (for instance President Barack Obama, who is in town but didn't have a chance to make it to The Venetian). Nonetheless, here's just a sampling of the people who sat down for charity tonight.Tony Hawk, Christian Slater, Brad Garrett, Jason Alexander, Joanna Krupa, Orel Hershiser, Montel Williams, Slash, Donnie Wahlberg, Marlon Wayans, AJ Buckley and Ryan Hunter Reay.

Team PokerStars Pro was here, too. Leading the charge was Daniel Negreanu who played with a bounty on his head. Whoever knocked him out got a guitar autographed by Slash.

"Donnie Wahlberg called my bluff and won the guitar," Negreanu said. "His son plays so that's cool."

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Donnie Wahlberg with Slash and the guitar

While pride and some tournament buy-ins were on the line, the celebs and players were more concerned about helping out Three Square.

"It sounds like a great food bank that helps local families," Tony Hawk said. "I don't have much poker experience except for events like this. I rarely get to play at my leisure, so I try to prepare but it's all very whirlwind. I got some tips, though, from Jason Mercier. He actually sat down with me for about 40 minutes."

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Tony Hawk

Hershiser did more than order up bottles of water for his competition. He embraced the idea of sitting down and playing for charity. Not only is he filling his role as a Friend of PokerStars, he's eager to raise some money for a worthy cause. "It's a double win. It's nice to know that companies like PokerStars care enough about charities to get involved, that they're sensitive enough to reach out to an organization like Three Square, which is a great cause," he said. "I'm told by my culture and my heart that I need to give back, and this is the perfect way to do that."

Just as it's all about to make sense, there is a presence in room--a shift in the force, if you will. There is a big man wearing all black standing near the rail. He holds a tournament receipt in his hand and stands looking across the sea of famous faces. A quick glance at the clock makes it obvious the tournament has already been running for half an hour. Then it makes sense. Indeed, it seems perfectly logical that Phil Hellmuth would show up late, get his chips, and then leave them behind so he could spend 15 minutes chatting with Slash.

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And then there is the face of an aged man with the unlikely name of Chuck Beretta. He's across the room with a black hat pushed down over his white hair and claiming he has somewhere between little and no idea what he's doing. It's hard to believe him, because the man with a hard-boiled detective novel name made this way through a series of freeroll qualifiers to win the Meet Joe Cada competition. Beretta not only met Cada, he sat with Negreanu this afternoon and learned how to bet with real chips.

"I was just fooling around on the internet," Beretta said. "I figured, I'm 72, I'll fool around."

His fooling around earned him a spot in the celebrity event, as well as tomorrow's $5,000 Main Event.

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Chuck Beretta

Several hours and one million camera flashes later, the celebrity charity tournament ended with Zak "Zakooza" Alameddine taking first prize, a $15,000 package to next year's PokerStars Caribbean Adventure.

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Zak "Zakooza" Alameddine

Runner-up, Orel Hershiser, won a $5,000 seat to the NAPT Mohegan Sun in April. Third place John Beveridge earned a seat to tomorrow's NAPT Venetian event.

With the event behind them, the celebs thought it might be a good time to party. So they joined what will go down in NAPT lore as...well, that's yet to be defined, because the party is still happening.

But imagine this: you walk into The Venetian's Tao nightclub to see two lithe beauties dressed as angels. They stand on either side of a giant table full of candy. It's a sugar-tooth's dream. Milky Ways, Pixie Stix, and just about every other kind of candy you can imagine. They beckon everyone who comes in. It's like a 1970s Studio 54 that's been taken over by Willy Wonka.

Those angels are countered by an untold number of girls dressed as devils. They carry whips and pitchforks. They have no candy, but it's understood they don't need any to do whatever it is they do.

And that's just the first thing you see.

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The room is packed with celebrities, drinks, out of this world food, and a crowd that's ready to party its way into oblivion. There is only one way to handle this.


There is no real describing T-Pain. Even if you meet him and talk to him, you don't walk away with any greater understanding of the man. Asked his favorite thing to do in Vegas, he responds, "My favorite thing to do in Vegas is get naked in my room and open up all the windows. Nothing to be ashamed of."

Yep, that's what he said.

T-Pain put on a 30-minute set for the crowd that can only be understood if you were there. In any case, this is what he looked like as he went nuts on a small stage 12 feet off the ground.

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If that doesn't help you understand how the party went, then maybe a shot of the crowd will.

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That's how it looked about half an hour ago as the party shifted into a gear that aging bloggers can no longer manage.

In short, that was a pretty wild day, and the NAPT Venetian Main Event hasn't even started.

About 12 hours from now, many of those people you see in the picture above will be settling into their seats to compete for what looks to be a fairly massive prize pool. It will certainly blow our minds more than everything we've seen today has. However, T-Pain's words are still ringing in our ears and the dancing devils haven't quite ripped themselves from our retinas.

It's time go to bed, perchance to dream, and hopefully to awake in time to see the NAPT kick off on its first stop in the U.S.

Additional reporting by Jen Newell. Photography by Joe Giron.

Brad Willis
@BradWillis in North American Poker Tour