One of the side effects of the current shutdown of the States of America is that some families are having trouble finding food. With this in mind, the online poker site America’s Cardroom held a charitable online poker tournament on Saturday afternoon. Once the tournament concluded, over one million dollars had been pledged to Feeding America, a U. S.-based nonprofit organization that is a nationwide network of more than 200 food banks that feed more than 46 million people through food pantries, soup kitchens, shelters, and other community-based agencies.
Brainchild of Hollywood and Online Poker
The tournament was the brainchild of actor/poker player Ben Affleck and America’s Cardroom Chief Executive Officer Phil Nagy, who felt that a big online poker tournament could do a great deal for providing meals to those who needed them the most. The $10,000 buy in event was big enough that it brought in some serious poker players, including Poker Hall of Famers Doyle Brunson and Phil Hellmuth, among others. It was the list of celebrities that came along for the ride that made the tournament special.
After being “rescued” from the clutches of “Darth Hoodie,” the new quarterback of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Tom Brady, led a list of athletes and celebrities that ponied up $10,000 to join the festivities. Along with Brady were Affleck and actors Matt Damon, Jason Bateman, Tobey Maguire, Adam Sandler, Breaking Bad star Bryan Cranston, Jay and Silent Bob stars Jason Mewes and Kevin Smith, Curb Your Enthusiasm actress Cheryl Hines and former Celebrity Poker Showdown host Kevin Pollak. Players from the poker world (along with Brunson and Hellmuth) included high stakes player Andy Milonakis, Jeff Gross, Jaime Staples, Mike McDonald, Luke Schwartz, Mike Matusow, Jason Koon and two-time Poker Player of the Year Alex Foxen.
Making the tournament even more exciting was the factor that there were unlimited rebuys (for another $10,000) until the end of the late registration period. There were a few players who took advantage of this, including comedian Sarah Silverman and Mad Men star John Hamm. All totaled, there were 65 entries in the tournament, making for an exciting event on Saturday afternoon.
Stealing Victory From the Jaws of Defeat
Starting promptly at 2PM, the tournament was broadcast on Twitch with Justin Kelly and Michael Loncor (not demonstrating the best “social distancing,” but we’ll let them off on that), with each player sitting on one million chips for their $10K buy-in. This allowed for some play by the competitors, but one player, Ebony Kenney, saw a particularly hard time on the virtual felt.
Kenney, who has nearly $300,000 in tournament earnings in her career, was battered through the early action of the tournament. At one point, she was down to a singular big blind and it was thought she would be finding the exits (or another buy-in). Instead, Kenney went on a run for the ages that left many in the Twitch chat room stunned.
Kenney fought back to make the final table and, with five left, was still in dire straits as she looked around at Cranston (the chip leader), Milonakis, Tom Cannuli and an unknown player that many in the chat room alleged was former World Champion Huck Seed. Meanwhile, Kelly and Loncor ran through a host of phone guests, including Hellmuth, Silverman and others, who kept everyone entertained if the poker lulled.
Cranston played a “tight is right” game but would fall in fifth place. After the Unknown Player departed in fourth, Pollak led the way over Milonakis and Kenney, but Kenney was able to get the best of Milonakis as he departed in third place. Down to heads up, Kenney was able to finish the comeback and vanquish Pollak to earn the championship and…nothing but bragging rights, as the entire $1.2 million raised by the tournament will be donated to Feeding America.
The tournament was a demonstration of how online poker can help raise money for worthy causes. It also showed, through the duration of the four-hour event, how poker players – be they celebrities or professionals – will battle it out, even with nothing on the line. For more information on the works of Feeding America and how to help them out, visit their website to learn more.