On Thanksgiving Day, PokerNews posted an article entitled A PokerNews Debate: Should Professional Poker Exist? One side of the debate was argued by PokerNews contributor Marty Derbyshire who posted the opinion that “Poker is a Game, Not a Career Choice.”
His views stirred up so much controversy that PokerNews edited and later removed the article from view. One section that was particularly scathing seemed little more than a personal attack against poker pros.
He wrote, “The rest of the professional poker playing community is simply gambling for a living. They make few, if any, contribution to society. For the most part, these are relatively smart people who choose greed, laziness and self delusion as their path. They are otherwise capable of doing something a little more meaningful with their lives.”
While poker can be a very selfish exploit by nature, the claim that poker players don’t make contributions to society is a bit outlandish. Today I present several instances where individual players and players as a collective make a positive contribution to society.
Matt Stout founded The Charity Series of Poker, a series of events that donates money to charities that directly impact the lives of the less fortunate. Some of the organizations that have benefited from the CSOP include Three Squares Food Bank, Habitat for Humanity, Maximum Hope Foundation and the Community Food Bank of New Jersey.
Read our Interview Here: For Matt Stout, CSOP Charitable Work is Personal
The CSOP is different from some other poker charity events as in the events are affordably priced and allows everyday poker players the chance to play and donate money to worthwhile causes.
Linda Johnson has been a tireless worker for charity for decades. She is best known for helping to found Poker Gives, an organization that was originally setup to give poker players a chance to donate to worthwhile charities.
Poker Gives became a division of When Charity Works in 2015 and now focuses on raising money to provide support services to military veterans. Johnson still gives of her time quite regularly and presently serves as a board member of the Poker Players Alliance.
While a contributor to multiple charities, Liv Boeree may best be known for co-founding Raising for Effective Giving. The purpose of the charity is effective giving.
As she told the Huffington Post, “Effective altruism is all about finding the best methods to do the most good. There are many major problems in the world that cause suffering, but unfortunately only finite resources (such as time and money) to try and solve them. Therefore it’s vitally important to figure out which interventions will have the biggest positive impact with our resources.”
According to that article, REG has raised over $1.5 million since 2014.
Read More: Are You Down with REG?
Vanessa Selbst’s passion in life is Social Justice and since 2010 she has been a major contributor and activist on that front. She founded Venture Justice in 2010, an organization that he website says ” funds projects that fight for racial justice and economic equality, and against police misconduct and government abuse of authority.”
Selbst is also a board member on the Urban Justice Center and plans to take on a much more active role in the fight for civil rights. In addition, Selbst just hosted the second annual Blinds & Justice Charity Event for the Urban Justice Center. In 2015, the event raised over $160,000.
One Drop Charities
Every time a player enters a One Drop tournament, they are contributing to charity. While the $1 million Big One for One Drop gets the most attention, the Little One and the One Drop High Rollers are also charity events with portions of the buy-in going to provide clean water to needy parts of the world.
To date, the WSOP and its players have helped to raise over $17 million for One Drop. And lets not forget that some players have chosen to donate their One Drop winnings back to the charity or they have donated the earnings to other organizations.
Jennifer Harman’s love for animals is unmatched by anyone in the pro game. An avid support of the Nevada chapter of the SPCA, she has been hosting tournaments for a decade with all proceeds going to support local animal shelters.
The Jennifer Harman Celebrity Poker Tournament draws in the biggest names from poker as well as selected celebrities for a fun evening of poker with a purpose.
Harman is not just “making a positive contribution” but also helping to save the lives of animals in the greater Las Vegas area. Below is a video of animals whose lives were saved by the work of Harman. Note that this video was posted back in 2009, so just imagine the total number of lives she has saved through her efforts.
While Phil Hellmuth may be known as a perpetual self-promoter, he has also used those skills to promote charities. He’s supported various charities, including the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, the Starkey Hearing Foundation and Heifer International.
Phil event visited US troops as part of a USO Tour in 2010. Hellmuth has a goal of raising $100 million for charity in his lifetime. He’s presently helped raise $20.4 million.
Daniel Negreanu donates both his time and money to various charitable causes. One of his favorite charities is St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
Earlier this month, he hosted the third annual “St. Jude Against All Odds” celebrity poker tournament. Last year’s event reportedly raised over $450,000 for the charity.
Not only does he regularly give time and money to various causes, he has fun while doing so.
Raising money for St. Jude Children's Hospital and having fun doing it! pic.twitter.com/oqfGXnju60— Daniel Negreanu (@RealKidPoker) November 27, 2016
Regardless of what you think about Jamie Gold as a WSOP champion or “poker ambassador,” one must admit that he has done a fantastic job of using the game to further charitable causes.
According to his website, Gold has been involved in over 250 charitable over the years. The most recent event he hosted was one benefiting the Variety Children’s Charity at Paramount Pictures.
Gold’s legacy as a Main Event winner may be a bit tarnished but his charitable impact is undeniable. To date he has helped to raise over $300 million for various causes worldwide.
In 2015, Dan Smith and Dan Colman organized a successful charity drive and raised approximately $140,000. This year, he raised the stakes and is looking to raise up to $350,000.
Smith states he will match donations up to $150,000 with those donation being split up over nine different charities. A full list of those charities is available on his website.
Bad Beat On Cancer
Another example of poker players in general making a positive contribution to society is the WSOP’s Bad Beat On Cancer campaign. For several years, poker players had the opportunity to pledge 1% of their poker earnings to help further cancer research. This option was available for each and every tournament one played in, not just a couple of events.
When Chris Moneymaker won the 2003 WSOP Main Event, his pledge resulted in a $25,000 donation. Over the years, players donated close to $4 million to cancer research.
Poker Players CLEARLY Don’t Contribute to Society
If one thing is clear from reading the now defunct article from PokerNews, it was that Derbyshire either didn’t do his research or that he was merely just trying to bash poker players for the sake of making an argument or get views.
PokerNews Editor-in-Chief issued what many felt is a weak apology (I’m being generous with that wording), stating that the article was unedited and posted without his approval while he is gone. Does that mean that Derbyshire directly posted the piece without anyone looking it over for accuracy?
While Derbyshire has admitted that he was taking an “extremist” view for the article, this particular point was one that he should not have made. The above were just a few examples of poker pros and players making a positive contribution to society, and I know I have overlooked many more due to space constraints.
Professional poker isn’t organized crime or some underground endeavor primarily undertaken by criminals. It is one thing to claim that poker isn’t a viable profession, but to claim that poker players don’t make a positive contributions to society is ludicrous.