On the evening of May 8th, celebrities and professional poker players gathered at San Manuel Indian Bingo and Casino in Southern California to host a poker tournament on behalf of Ante Up for Africa, an event hosted by the group’s organizers Annie Duke and Don Cheadle. The combined funds raised from the tournament, silent auction, and contribution from San Manuel, was over $500,000.
The event was scheduled with 120 invited celebrities and guests in order to raise money for and awareness of the humanitarian crisis taking place in Darfur, Africa. Along with a poker tournament, there was a silent auction, which raised $4,000 alone, there was a VIP party later in the evening. All proceeds were set to be donated to Not On Our Watch (NOOW), an organization founded by Cheadle, George Clooney, Matt Damon, and Brad Pitt to focus attention and resources on ending mass atrocities around the world.
San Manuel originally pledged to donate $75,000 to NOOW in addition to offering the venue for the tournament, but in the end, the casino decided to up the ante and donate an incredible $500,000. Cheadle noted, “When I heard about San Manuel’s decision to increase the donation to $500,000, I couldn’t believe it. I am so very grateful to them for their generosity and for helping us continue to bring the plight of the refugees of Darfur into the light.”
Duke and Cheadle hosted the festivities. Among the poker pros in attendance were Howard Lederer, Chris “Jesus” Ferguson, Phil “Unabomber” Laak, and Andy Bloch. And the celebrity list included Will Garson, Josh Molina, Tia Mowry, Scott Ian, and L.A. Dodgers first baseman James Loney.
First place in the tournament went to Bill Pedigo of AEG Worldwide, who decided to donate the celebrity autographed custom poker table, courtesy of San Manuel, that he won to the second place winner who was said to be a regular casino poker player. After the tournament concluded, everyone gathered to sign autographs and celebrate the fundraising evening at The Pines, a new lounge at the casino.
Ante Up for Africa held its inaugural fundraising tournament at the 2007 World Series of Poker and raised over $700,000 for the cause. The second annual event is being organized to take place during the 2008 WSOP on Wednesday, June 2nd in the Amazon Room of the Rio in Las Vegas. It will again be a $5,000 buy-in tournament held the day before the start of the main event of the WSOP. Pre-registration is currently available on the WSOP website.