To the wider world, poker is selfish game. It’s just about beating the next man or woman and taking their money, right? Well, yes, but because of that many would like to believe poker players are money-grabbers without a care for others. Rubbish. Anyone who has played on PokerStars for a while will know its community is among the most generous anywhere in the world.
When earthquakes have caused untold devastation, or tidal waves have washed away lives and livelihoods, the PokerStars community has stepped up to the plate and raised millions. And on many an occasion, PokerStars itself has matched every cent donated by a player.
Back in January, 2010 we were live reporting the PCA in The Bahamas. Suddenly, a minor panic: the island was put on tsunami alert following an earthquake in Haiti minutes earlier. Thankfully, the tidal wave was no more than a few inches, but as we watched the news on TV later, it became clear that Haiti had become a disaster zone.
PokerStars sprung to action, setting up dummy tournaments so players could register. There was no game to play, the registrations were donations that went straight to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. Within weeks, players and PokerStars had donated nearly $1.5 million, a quite incredible effort. You can see the letter of thanks from the Red Cross here.
This effort was repeated following the Japan earthquake and subsequent devastating tsunami in April this year, and had previously been used after a huge earthquake in China in 2008, Hurricane Katrina and the Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami on Boxing Day, 2004.
These were examples of PokerStars players donating. Other worthwhile causes have been support through playing the game we love. You may recall back in 2007 when PokerStars teamed up with the stars of Ocean’s Thirteen to raise money for the millions affected by deadly conflict in Darfur, Sudan.
PokerStars itself donated $1 million to the charity Not On Our Watch (set up by the film’s stars and producing team), and then ran an online charity tournament, with winners getting red carpet tickets for the Los Angeles premier of Ocean’s Thirteen, starring the likes of George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, and Don Cheadle.
PokerStars has also supported Ante Up For Africa, hosting the first tournament in Europe for the charity at EPT Monte Carlo in 2009. That event was won by Isabelle Mercier. Stars attending included Formula One racer Nico Rosberg, England rugby star Mike Tindall and his now wife, Zara Phillips, who is the Queen’s granddaughter, and Liverpool and Spain goalkeeper Pepe Reina
More recently, PokerStars has been delighted to support amFAR, the AIDS research charity chaired by the well-known designer, Kenneth Cole. In January, 2010, the PCA was the scene of a star-studded amFAR tournament, packed with celebrities and top poker players to raise a small fortune. Stars including Kelly Rowland, Slash from Guns ‘N Roses, Nelly and Montel Williams. In the end, though, it was the one PokerStars qualifier in the field, the UK’s Spencer Benjafield, who had won his chance for a trip of a lifetime to the Bahamas to play the event, who picked up the title. You can read about the amFAR tournament here.
These, then, are just some of the charity efforts PokerStars and its players have been involved in. Many more are done quietly, away from the glare of publicity.
So next time you hear someone accusing poker players of being a greedy, selfish breed, just direct them to this post. As Montel Williams told me at the PCA: “Poker players have the biggest hearts.”
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We are publishing these daily review articles throughout November as PokerStars gears up to celebrate its 10th Anniversary.
Daniel Negreanu, poker star
Liv Boeree, winner
Rocking all over the world
The Selbst Factor
Milestones to go before we sleep
World Cup of Poker
The Bear Necessities
SCOOP, hold the front page
Slaying the EPT monkey
When two cards just won’t do
ElkY, one name says it all
Going live at the PCA
It’s a bling thing
Online wizards cast their spell
The EPT circus
Making world champions