When the general public thinks of poker, scenes of high stakes, big bluffs, and lots of gambling come to mind. The industry’s charitable efforts is an under-appreciated aspect of the poker world.
Million of dollars have been raised over the years for various causes. That’s certainly true of the World Series of Poker over the last two decades. Here’s a look at a few of the charity events involving the WSOP since the poker boom.
Ante Up for Africa
Before 2012, WSOP hosted an annual Ante Up For Africa tournament. This was not a bracelet event but was held during the WSOP summer events in Las Vegas.
The event was co-created by longtime poker pro Annie Duke and actor/poker player Don Cheadle. The proceeds from the tournament benefited survivors of the humanitarian crisis in Darfur, Sudan.
War and genocide devastated the area, and the charity hoped to offer some relief for those suffering. Ante Up For Africa ran for a few years and attracted Hollywood elites such as Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, Tracy McGrady, Brad Garrett, Hank Azaria, and Ray Romano.
One Drop Foundation
Benefit tournaments for One Drop were part of the growing movement toward high-stakes tournaments. That greatly benefited the foundation for several years.
One Drop helps impoverished nations gain access to safe drinking water and sanitation. The group currently has developed projects in 13 different countries.
The $1 million dollar buy-in for the original event in 2012 drew 48 players with $111,111 of each buy-in going to the charity. Antonio “The Magician” Esfandiari won that event for more than $18 million.
This was also the first time a bracelet was awarded for a charity tournament in WSOP history. In 2013, the WSOP expanded and allowed players with lower bankrolls to get in on the charitable action.
The first $1,111 Little One For One Drop was a bracelet event, drew 4,391 players, and raised $500,000. One Drop events continue to be fan favorites each year at the WSOP.
Salute to Warriors
In 2019, the WSOP added something a bit different to the charity mix. The tournament included a patriotic vibe.
The $500 Salute to Warriors charity bracelet event benefited United Services Organization (USO) and other military-related charities. Organizers fittingly wrapped the tournament around American Independence Day.
The special event fielded 1,723 players and Susan Faber, a 71-year-old Ohio resident, took the title for $121,161. The $43,075 raised for the cause was an even better number.
With the world facing a pandemic, WSOP officials postponed this year’s series to the fall. Instead, the series implemented the WSOP Online that included bracelets for international players at GGPoker.
This year, the $1,111 Every 1 for Covid Relief took the place of the annual One Drop charity tournament. On July 19, GG hosted the event to benefit Caesars Cares.
The foundation assists the company’s employees who have suffered unanticipated hardships. The fund helps employees struggling as a result of the COVID-19 emergency.
Poker players certainly did their part in helping, raising $354,756 for the charity. GGPoker ambassador Daniel Negreanu recently presented WSOP executive director Ty Stewart a check for the funds.
Charity Series of Poker
WSOP charity events such as One Drop and Ante up for Africa have also inspired others in the philanthropic arena. Poker player Matt Stout founded the Charity Series of Poker in 2014.
The CSOP is a tournament series that has helped support Three Square food bank in Las Vegas, the Community FoodBank of New Jersey, and other groups.
“The Charity Series of Poker started as a grassroots, volunteer side project,” Stout says. “It was an effort by the poker community to leave some of our stops on the tour better than we found them. We’d partner with different casinos across the country and run events for worthy local charities as part of different WPT and WSOP series.”
The series has now raised more than $2 million for various groups. In 2016, Stout won the Charitable Initiative of the Year at the Global Poker Index’s American Poker Awards.
The CSOP will return after the Coronavirus pandemic. Players round the world continue offering up some good vibes through charitable endeavors and that should continue.