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For many years, poker players and organizers have used tournaments to raise money for charity. The buy-ins are low but offer rebuys for those who want to donate more, and the action is fast but fun in an environment that allows everyone to enjoy the game for a good cause.

Charity poker tournaments are often paired with silent auctions to raise more money for the organization featured at the event. Popular poker players often lend their names to the advertisements and play in the tournaments to draw bigger crowds, and even celebrities and famous athletes promote and join in the events.

The opportunity to play poker in low buy-in tournaments with poker pros and famous people for a good cause in a celebratory environment attracts big crowds. And thousands – sometimes tens of thousands – of dollars are raised for charities that do everything from feed the homeless to aid disaster relief, from help the underprivileged to fight diseases.

Yet, there is little promotion or publicizing of the events and their results in the media.

Back in the Day

In 2006, Ante Up for Africa was founded by Annie Duke and Don Cheadle, among others, to bring poker players and celebrities together for fundraising. The goal was to provide money to help with humanitarian assistance and policy work in Africa, especially in areas plagued by conflict and poverty.

The first major tournament was held in conjunction with the World Series of Poker at the Rio in 2007 and took place annually for several years. The tournaments brought the biggest names in poker together with stars like Ben Affleck and Matt Damon to the tables with poker pros like Phil Hellmuth and Chris Ferguson for a star-studded tournament. Those events were $5K buy-ins and raised millions.

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In subsequent years, the WSOP made an effort to partner with charitable organizations, which led to the most recent years of fundraising with the One Drop Foundation to raise money for clean water throughout the world, the brainchild of Guy Laliberte. The WSOP still offers the Big One for One Drop and Little One for One Drop tournaments, with parts of buy-ins from each going to One Drop.

Publicity No More

While the WSOP still publicizes the One Drop tournaments to attract players, there is little done to discuss how much money was raised for the cause. It is easy to figure out how much of the $111,111 or $1,111 buy-ins go to the organization, but there was only one article written about the results of the charity aspect of those tournament this year, and that was done by ESPN. The WSOP did not even issue a press release to announce or promote the results.

Charity tournaments happened throughout the summer months of 2016 but with little media assistance. There were several charity events during the WSOP alone, the most promoted of which was the Charity Series of Poker at Planet Hollywood on July 10. This was the seventh tournament of its kind by the CSOP, which is run by well-known members of the poker community like Matt Stout and Matt Savage. The group’s social media presence is solid and results in big turnouts for most of its events. That event raised nearly $20K for the Three Square Food Bank in Las Vegas.

However, there was no poker media outlet in Las Vegas for the WSOP that covered the event and wrote any type of follow-up article about the CSOP, or the other charitable endeavors of the summer for that matter.

Meanwhile, information about other charity events, such as those sponsored by the WPT Foundation are held around the country with no publicity whatsoever. Mike Sexton, Vince Van Patten, and Lynn Gilmartin attended a New York fundraiser in July to benefit an organization called Education Reform Now, but the only follow-up available from the event was on social media, mostly courtesy of Gilmartin herself.

Does a Star Shine if No One Sees It?

The generosity of poker players and the ability for poker tournaments to raise money for worthy causes is one of the best aspects of the game. It has always been a source of pride for the industry. Not only are the events profitable for various charities, but the attendees often have a great deal of fun in the process.

As the events continue, the poker media seems to have lost interest. Not only are there few efforts to publicize the events other than on social media before they happen, but there are even fewer attempts to spread the word about the success of said events. There are several likely reasons, including a lack of resources from the tournament promoters, and less interest from and fewer writers in poker media.

It is a disappointment, though, that even though the poker community remains a generous and charitable lot, there is little interest to promote the events beforehand or report the results afterward. It would behoove everyone – charities, players, and fans alike – to put more effort into promoting the great work done by and with the poker community.

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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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