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Poker News | People in Poker | Poker Superstars

Where Are They Now – Don Cheadle

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Where are They Now is a series of an in depth look at all poker players - not just the pros - as they travel through one long game. Some of the players profiled are deceased but not forgotten.

One of the favorite “fun” subjects among fans of poker is trying to determine which famous celebrities are also good at poker.  The “Where Are They Now” series has documented such Hollywood celebrities turned poker players like Jennifer Tilly, Ben Affleck, and now, Don Cheadle.  Tilly owns a World Series of Poker bracelet, while Affleck holds a California State Championship, so living up to those poker accolades may be a tough one for Cheadle.  However, Cheadle has made the greatest contribution to the poker world without ever winning a major tournament, or for that fact even running deep in one.  Cheadle instead brought his charitable efforts to the poker world, and for the last few years, alongside Annie Duke, has run one of the most successful charity tournaments in the world.  Also, while he hasn’t won any major tournaments (yet) he has proven that he can hold his own against the toughest players in the world.

Donald Frank Cheadle Jr. was born to Bettye and Donald on November 29, 1964.  The younger Don was born in Kansas City, Missouri but his family moved many times because Donald Sr.’s job as a clinical psychologist moved him around the country quite a bit.  The family, which included three kids in all, eventually settled in Denver, Colorado, which is where Cheadle would graduate from in 1982.  

Cheadle first became interested in acting long before he graduated from high school.  In 5th grade he was picked to play the role of Templeton the Rat in “Charlotte’s Web.”  Even though it wasn’t a serious production, and most of the kids would forget their lines during the play, Cheadle took the rule seriously, carrying around the script nearly 24 hours a day.  Cheadle has said that from the first moment he became interested in acting he always carried his lines with him wherever he went so he could practice anytime or anyplace.

Cheadle is among a unique minority that never had to bus tables or become a waiter while waiting for his break in Hollywood.  As a gift for graduating high school, his parents gave him $500, and that would be the only handout Cheadle would ever need.  Cheadle took the $500 and moved to Valencia, California to attend the California Institute of Arts drama school.  The $500 was about to run out, and Cheadle was worried he’d have to ask his parents for more money, but then luck struck in the form of a reoccurring role on the television sitcom “Hamburger Hill.”  An actor finding a job while still in drama school, while never having to work a day at a menial job, may even be more rare than the poker player who never goes busto.  Cheadle went on to graduate from the California Institute of Arts while appearing on “Hamburger Hill.”  

From there the roles kept on rolling in.  Cheadle appeared in a number of hit sitcoms over the next few years.  He appeared on “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” “Picket Fences,” and “Night Court.”  While appearing in those hit television shows, he started showing up in supporting roles in movies such as “Colors.”

Cheadle jumped into the Hollywood spotlight for good when he won the Best Supporting Actor award from the Los Angeles Film Critic Association for his role in “Devil in a Blue Dress.”  While that move failed to do well at the box office, Cheadle was no longer a secret in Hollywood, and nearly all the movies that have followed have made up for the low box office numbers from “Devil in a Blue Dress.”  Some of those more noteworthy movies are “Boogie Nights,” The Rat Pack,” “Hotel Rwanda,” and of course the casino heist trilogy of the “Oceans” movies.

Cheadle had long been a philanthropist, donating his time and money to a number of charities throughout the years.  Poker playing had become a popular past-time on the sets of his movies during downtime, particularly while filming the “Ocean’s 11,” “12,” and “13” movies.  Cheadle believed that the sudden popularity in poker could help him in his charitable efforts.  In 2007, alongside Annie Duke, he started the “Ante Up for Africa” tournament to be played in the middle of the World Series of Poker, so all the top names could play in it.  “Ante Up for Africa” was created to raise money and awareness for Africans in need.  The event, which has a $5,000 buy-in, has been a huge success.  

In 2007, the inaugural year, the event attracted 167 stars and celebrities.  The final two players in the tournament, Dan Shak and Brandon Moran agreed to donate all their prize money to the cause, which represented $400,000.  The following year the winner of the event, John Hennigan, donated all of his winnings, amounting to $169,000.  Last year, Alex Bolotin won the event, donating half his winnings to the cause.
The “Ante Up For Africa” has also taken its tour on the road, hosting tournaments in Monaco and San Manuel.   At this year’s WSOP, the “Ante Up For Africa” tournament will be held on July 3rd.  The official website can be viewed at  
Cheadle has also proved he can hold his own away from the charity poker tournaments too.  In a June 2009 episode of “Poker After Dark” titled, “Celebrities and Mentors,” Cheadle finished first among the celebrities and second overall.  Additionally, at the 2007 “National Heads-Up Tournament” Cheadle defeated Phil Ivey in the first round.  In 2009 he knocked out another poker great, David Pham, in the first round.

Away from the big screen, little screen, and poker felt, Cheadle has two children with his girlfriend actress Bridgid Coulter.  

*Read Billy Monroe's Blog*

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