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It’s been said before but warrants repeating: Poker players can be extremely generous. And four of them recently proved that they not only had the heart to raise money for charity, they had a wildly unique idea to raise funds, bring more attention to poker, and garner awareness about a cause and foundation of which many in the community were not aware.

Jamie Staples is popular in poker for his role as a PokerStars Team Pro Online member as well as his notoriety for livestreaming his online poker games on Twitch to a large and constantly-growing audience. He shares a house in Montreal with poker pro Jeff Gross, as they both consider it a home base for their streaming activities. Thus, it has been dubbed the “streamhouse.” Staples and Gross put their heads together with fellow PokerStars Team Pro Online and TV reality star Kevin Martin and with Jaime’s brother Matt Staples.

As a group, they decided to raise money for the Michael Phelps Foundation. Why that particular charity? Gross was roommates with Phelps for many years and continue a very close friendship. Phelps had just gotten back from the 2016 Rio Olympics with some fresh gold medals but wanted to draw attention to his foundation, which he established to help save children’s lives through swimming. The Michael Phelps Foundation works with Boys & Girls Clubs of America and the Special Olympics to teach children to overcome any fear of water, be safe in it, and lead healthy lives.

The Streamhouse Charity Marathon was then set to run from October 9-16 as a 24/7 livestreaming poker project on Twitch, all with the purpose of raising money for the foundation. The four guys used their individual Twitch channels and set a schedule for each man to play eight hours straight per day but play host to each other’s streams as well, all while touting the good of the organization and promising to donate 100 percent of the money raised.

Of course, they had fun with it, but the lack of sleep and rigorous daily schedules took their toll on the group. And in the end, they raised $21,000 for the Michael Phelps Foundation.

We talked to Staples about his experience and the project as a whole. By the end, Staples reveals that there is some quiet chatter about a possible second marathon!

PokerUpdate:  How did you take donations during the marathon and how much did you raise altogether for the Michael Phelps Foundation?

Jaime Staples:  The plan came together last minutes so we did not have time to set up a central location for all donations. We accepted donations through all of our personal donation links on Twitch (using a service called Streamlabs) and through direct PokerStars transfers to our accounts. Over the 175 hours, we raised US$21,000 for the foundation. 

PokerUpdate:  Of course Jeff and Michael are friends, but how did the idea really take shape and become a 24/7 streaming marathon?

Staples:  Jeff Gross has recently moved into the house, and he and I were sitting at the table brainstorming ideas about how we could do something awesome together — not just the individual streams like normal but as a group. I pitched the idea of a charity marathon where we contributed 100% of donations and didn’t go offline for a week straight (Sunday to Sunday). He really liked that and brought forward the Michael Phelps Foundation as a potential charity. It was easy to convince Kevin and Matt (the other two roommates) on the idea, and two days later, we began!

 

PokerUpdate:  What was the most challenging part of the project?

Staples:  For me personally, it was the sleep! I had the 6AM-to-noon shift, and there was a clause that if anyone donated $100 at any time of the day, I had to personally thank them as soon as possible on whoever’s stream was running. Most nights I was awakened four or five times. It was challenging, but I think added a lot of fun to the overnight hours of the streams. As a group, I think the constant action was a lot to deal with, as our house was transformed into a rat’s nest of cords and yells echoing at all hours of the day. It was a really rewarding experience after it was all said and done but chaos while it was running.

 PokerUpdate:  Was there a particular moment of fun or laughter that stood out from the rest?

Staples:  Kevin Martin and Matt Staples had a ton of deep runs during the week. So the rare times of the day when we were all awake (from 9PM to 2AM-ish) were always crazy. With Jeff being the best hype-man in the world and yells from both Kevin’s and Matt’s streams as all-ins held, it was really crazy. The best was on Saturday night at around 3AM when my brother, Matt, was at another final table for the third day in a row. Kevin had gone out for a few drinks earlier, so he brought a lot of “energy,” you could say. Jeff was spouting his usual, “Lock the doors, Matty Ice. It’s for the kiiiiiiiiiids!!!” I couldn’t sleep that night; I had to be a part of it. I’m pretty sure he won the tournament, but maybe I made that part up in my head.

PokerUpdate:  Will you or the other guys be doing anything further to raise money for this cause?

Staples:  We are already talking about Streamhouse Marathon Version Two! We are going to give it a little time, though. I am currently with fellow Team PokerStars Online member Kevin Martin in New Jersey for the PokerStars Festival this week, and Jeff is at Michael Phelps’ wedding! EPT Prague is coming up in December, the holidays, PokerStars Championship Bahamas, etc.  We are thinking version two will be in the spring, but for now, we are going to get back into the daily grind of doing our best to play great poker and have some fun while streaming it.

For those wanting to check out parts of the Streamhouse Charity Marathon, visit twitch.tv/pokerstaples or youtube.com/pokerstaples for the short-form highlights.

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Jennifer Newell

Jennifer has been a freelance writer in the poker industry for a decade. She left a full-time job with the World Poker Tour to tell the stories of poker. She now lives in St. Louis, writes about poker while pursuing other varied interests, and speaks her mind on Twitter… a lot.

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