Charity poker event dodges baseballs, raises money



I recently hit the road to support a great charity and a good friend, Jack Walls. His charity is U Care America or the United Cancer Alliance. This was U Care’s first poker charity event and it was a big one, hosting three events in three days.

Unfortunately Black Friday hit this event hard as one of the leading online poker sites that was shut down was to be a sponsor. It informed the charity about five days before the event, leaving U Care to scramble, which it did admirably.
The first tournament, which featured a $1,500 World Series of Poker seat and attracted 120 players, was held on the large party deck at the Triple-A baseball team Durham Bulls’ ballpark. Poker pro Jennifer “Jennicide” Leigh was on hand and at my table.

After about seven hours Daniel Weaver from the World Amateur Poker League won the seat. It was his third tournament victory in 45 days.

Day 2 turned out to be a little bigger, which likely correlated with the first-place prize being a $2,500 WSOP seat. As a funny aside, the Bulls held batting practice that morning and the players in the charity event had to dodge plenty of baseballs flying by their heads.

At the lunch break I caught up with poker pro Jason “Jaspuduf” Lee and he told me he had been playing blind for the first two hours, and that he had won about 70 percent of those hands! After lunch we had what must be a first, a 20-minute rain delay. Ultimately we got back to playing and first place went to Phillip Robert, followed by Sunny Graham, Scott Kinane and David McNeil.

Later that night the charity hosted a party for the participants, with great food, drinks and a band under a crystal clear Carolina sky.

Day 3 was the main event, which promised a $10K WSOP Main Event seat to the winner, and of course even more players showed up. It took about six hours to get down to the final table, and then it took a little less than an hour to have a winner: Milan Dragic.

Because of the event’s success the president of the charity is looking to run a yearlong series that would tour the Southeast and possibly go national. Stay tuned to Ante Up for updates.

— Mark Rhoades is Ante Up’s Ambassador for North Carolina. Email him at

Ante Up Magazine

Ante Up Magazine