On Saturday, PokerStars hosted a whopper of a celebrity charity poker tournament on PokerStars.net. The Stars CALL for Action tournament raised $1 million for charity. Emerging victorious and winning $100,000 for his cause was actor David Costabile, known for his supporting roles in some of the best shows on television like “Breaking Bad,” “The Wire,” and “Billions.

There was no buy-in for the event and all money went to charity. Costabile’s prize went to World Central Kitchen. The organization is committed to solving hunger worldwide, but right now is focused on providing meals in COVID-19 hotspots while at the same time supporting local restaurants.

Interesting structure

The Stars CALL for Action event was effectively three tournaments in one. Approximately 90 celebrities participated in the Celebrity Shootout. In this stage, celebrities played six-handed (mostly) down to a winner at each table. Re-buys (for free) were permitted within the first half-hour. Each table champ moved on to the Final Tournament.

For every celebrity in the event, a fan was also chosen to play. Those fans played in the Regular Tournament, which was just that: a regular tournament. The final six players joined the celebrity finalists.

The Final Tournament was also a standard tournament. The top six players made the money.

Spread the wealth

PokerStars pitched in the entire $1 million prize pool for the tournament (view donations were also accepted). Half of the money went to PokerStars’ preferred charity, CARE International. $10,000 went to the survivor of each celebrity shootout table. The final table payouts were as follows:

David Costabile – $100,000
Douglas Costa – $75,000
Jennifer Shahade – $40,000
Casey Affleck – $30,000
Chris Moneymaker – $20,000
Mike Tindall – $10,000

Additionally, Wayne Bridge nabbed $50,000 for winning the second-chance tournament, open to the celebrities who finished second at their shootout tables.

All prize money won by celebrities went to charities of their choosing. Had one of the fans made the money, their winnings would have gone to CARE International.

Come together

Though PokerStars was the host and put up the money, it was actually actor Hank Azaria and his friend/poker buddy, author Andy Bellin who thought up the idea for the tournament. They had already been planning a live charity poker tournament in New York City, but when the COVID-19 crisis hit, they had to scrap the idea. An online tourney with webcams on seemed like a natural fit.

Azaria told the PokerStars blog:

Everybody seems to be pretty enthusiastic about this. It’s a great way to combine genuine giving where it’s needed with a way to stay home and yet still connect with people in a way that is fun and reminds us how life used to be, which hopefully we get back to soon. It’s also a way for people to interact for a good cause and still enjoy themselves at the same time.

“If there was ever a time to design an online charity poker tournament, this is it,” added Bellin.

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