While everyone thinks that the game of poker is about taking someone’s money away from them, some of poker’s best professionals and people with big hearts gathered late this week in Las Vegas instead with other motives in mind. During the run of events at the World Series of Poker, these people gathered together to remember a man who had a tremendous impact on the poker world and raise money in his memory for an extremely worthy cause.
The 2nd Annual Chad Brown Memorial Tournament took place on Thursday evening, hosted by poker professional Maria Ho at Planet Hollywood Hotel and Casino and benefitting the T. J. Martell Foundation. The tournament featured a $200 buy-in (with half of that going to the prize pool and the other half to the foundation) and $100 rebuys and/or add-ons (with all those funds going to the T. J. Martell Foundation). Those that would reach the final table would earn some outstanding prizes, such as a seat at the 2015 WSOP Championship Event (for the eventual champion) and a seat at the 2016 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure (for the runner-up).
One of the remarkable things about the tournament, a tribute to Brown primarily, was the number of competing poker tours and organizations that came together and contributed prizes for the event. In addition to the WSOP and PokerStars, the World Poker Tour, the Heartland Poker Tour and the PPC Poker Tour came through by offering prizes for the tournament. The Poker Academy and Zen Poker Training also stepped forward in offering their wares to a fortunate winner. Tournament organizer Jennifer Winter commented to Poker News Daily that the array of tours supporting the Brown event “truly represents the poker community coming together” for a good cause.
With a cocktail party with an open bar to start things off at 6PM, the celebration of Brown’s life and the charitable nature of the gathering shone through. When the tournament started at 7PM, the festivities carried on to the tables of the Planet Hollywood poker room. Nick Fradiani, the most recent winner of American Idol, took his place at the felt and handled himself admirably although he failed to make the final table. Team PokerStars Pro (and former teammate of Brown’s with the company) Vanessa Selbst, fellow Team PokerStars Pro Fatima Moreira de Melo, Leo Margets and European Poker Tour founder John Duthie were also a part of the party, playing well enough to make the final table alongside Ho.
One of the biggest issues with the day is that everyone who wanted to be a part of the celebration of Brown’s life and its impact couldn’t make it to Planet Hollywood. Because of the scheduling of poker tournaments around Las Vegas (the WSOP was in full swing alongside the WPT500 at Aria and the $500,000 Super High Roller event put on by Poker Central opened up its Day One action), many top pros were unable to play in this tournament. When they could, however, they would come to the event, if only to show their support for the tournament or to leave a donation before heading back to their particular game of choice.
As the rebuy period ended and the add-ons were counted out, the final money raised for the T. J. Martell Foundation became known. With more than 500 rebuys (one player racked up 25 rebuys on his own; the tournament and the T. J. Martell Foundation thank you, Dave Stevenson!) between the 150 players that took part in the event, over $80,000 was raised for the T. J. Martell Foundation, which funds research for cancer, leukemia and AIDS research. This topped last year’s efforts by $9000, all in remembrance of Chad Brown and his life.
The tournament itself would take more than eight hours to complete and, in the end, Ho parlayed her hosting duties into winning the event. Ho demonstrated the thoughts of those at the Brown tournament over Twitter, telling her fans, “I somehow won (the tournament) but donated 100% of my cash payout back to charity.” This was a sentiment of many, whether they won the event, as Ho did, or were playing to support the cause, as the head of the One Step Closer Foundation (a charitable cause that supports cerebral palsy awareness and research) Jacob Zalewski did in donating $500.
It certainly was a night to remember for the camaraderie that the game of poker provided, the chance to celebrate the life of Chad Brown and the opportunity to raise funds for the T. J. Martell Foundation. It left all exhausted following the gathering/party/poker tournament but wondering, “How soon until next year’s tournament?!?!”