Luxe Life Blog
Stars go all-in for annual Ante Up for Africa to kick off WSOP Main Event
A stunning all-star celebrity turnout is set for today’s 2 p.m. red carpet start for actor Don Cheadle and poker princess Annie Duke’s 3rd Annual Ante Up for Africa tournament at The Rio.
Screen hunks Ben Affleck and Matt Damon will join an ever-growing list of VIPs and card kings that includes celebrities Brad Garrett, Mekhi Phifer, Cedric the Entertainer, Jason Alexander, Montel Williams, Sarah Silverman, Rob Schneider and Tia Carrere, athletes Charles Barkley, Herschel Walker, Kenny Smith and Shawn Marion and poker pros Phil Hellmuth, Howard Lederer, Andy Bloch, Tiffany Michelle and Erik Seidel.
The Ante Up for Africa charity is a significant part of the 40th Annual World Series of Poker and the lead-in to the most prestigious Main Event, which gets underway tomorrow, also at The Rio. The field of 6,000-plus players for the Main Event will need four starting days to accommodate the large number. The world’s richest sporting event attracted players from a record number 124 countries last year and awarded more than $180 million in prizes.
The WSOP began back in 1970 when downtown gambling king Benny Binion started a challenge between the seven top players of the day. The game lasted five months, and there wasn’t even a cash prize, just the title of world champion! The next year, Benny chipped in a $30,000 prize, and the rest as they say is history. Last year’s winner, Peter Eastgate of Denmark, earned nearly $10 million with the title!
Don is an accomplished poker player in his own right, and Annie, who has more than $4 million in tournament winnings, won a 2004 WSOP bracelet. They are committed to raising public awareness about the continuing tragedy and humanitarian crisis in Darfur, Sudan, and funds for its victims. They expect their tournament to run about five hours today and add significant funding to the $2 million they have raised in the poker games to date. Nevada gaming laws don’t permit cash prizes to be given directly to charities, so players contribute their winnings.
Annie, who was runner-up on Donald Trump’s Celebrity Apprentice, celebrated with a Summer of Poker kickoff at Lavo in the Palazzo. Her boyfriend movie producer Joe Reitman joined her for dinner there and then upstairs in the nightclub, and poker pals Joe Sebok, Brian Devonshire, Mike Sowers, Tiffany Michelle and Dave Stann joined the dance floor tables.
Annie explained her commitment to the charity she formed with Don in September 2006: “I’m passionate about the refugee situation in the Sudan. I don’t think we can really fathom what it’s like to have no voice, be completely disenfranchised, not even have a government that can help in any way. In our first year, we raised $700,000 and all told $2.1 million so far. We have high hopes that this will be our biggest and best to date. ESPN will film it for later broadcast, and that will certainly get the message of the charity out there.
“Poker players do so much for various charities. Everything that’s happened to me has been because of poker. I was raised that when you have a life like I do, it’s your obligation to give back and do whatever you can for people who aren’t so fortunate.”
Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.
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