By Christopher Cosenza
When it comes to charity poker tournaments, few can rival the Deep Stack Charity Classic, which returns for its fifth year on May 5 (1 p.m.) at the Daytona Beach (Fla.) Kennel Club and Poker Room. Perhaps the Big One for One Drop sticks in your mind as the premiere charity event, but that’s maybe because you were wooed by the $1 million buy-in, the ESPN broadcast and the World Series brand. So how does the Deep Stack event reply to the Big One? By landing the winner of that Big One — $18.3 million man Antonio Esfandiari — as special host, instructor and player at this year’s series.
“We are overwhelmed and ecstatic that the most successful player in poker history, Antonio Esfandiari, is joining us this year,” said Deep Stack Charity Classic founder Scott Frank. “I watched him win the One Drop last year and instantly appreciated the electricity and excitement he will now bring to poker fans in Florida.”
Esfandiari will come in ahead of schedule to conduct a poker seminar on May 4 as part of the charity weekend and will have fellow WSOP bracelet-winner Jason Somerville as his teaching partner. Seats are limited so be sure to check with the poker room on availability. The Magician said he is happy to give back to the poker community whenever he can.
“I believe I’m very fortunate in the life that I live, so any time there’s a charity opportunity, I try to make it work,” said Esfandiari, who has three WSOP bracelets and a pair of World Poker Tour titles. “My schedule’s a bit hairy, so I can’t do as many as I’d like to … It’s good to give back; it makes you sleep good at night.”
Frank, who was inspired by his 87-year-old father’s love of Texas Hold’em to create this unique charity event, each year joins Rabbi David Kane in putting on one of the most exciting tournaments you could ever attend.
“As poker players and fans ourselves, we are constantly striving to provide our players with the most fun and best value, anywhere,” Frank said.
You’d think a tournament that is this successful and fun would have a huge buy-in, but that’s not the case.
“While this is a charity event, we have designed the tournament to provide players with incredible value and a player-friendly structure,” Frank said. “The buy-in is only $185 and $195 on tournament day, but we expect to be sold out well before then.”
There will be one rebuy and add-on available. This event has sold out the past three years, but they will allow alternates for the first 150 minutes.
The final table and their guests will win trips to Las Vegas to stay at the Venetian, and the final tablists will play in the Venetian’s popular Deep Stack Extravaganza.
“Over $70,000 in prize packages will be awarded here in Daytona Beach,” Frank said, “and our first-place champion will get to play in the Venetian’s main event.”
The charity tournament pays the top 10 percent, and an incredible amount of door prizes (more than $30K worth) will be added, making this a guaranteed overlay.
Also, Norman Chad, the color commentator for ESPN’s coverage of the WSOP, will return as poker host this year.
“I’m thrilled Norman Chad will be joining us again this year,” Frank said. “Norman is one of the finest poker ambassadors in the world, so much fun, and an exceptional gentleman. Norman will be at the VIP Celebrity Invitational Tournament and cocktail party, and be at the main event. He will go table to table and schmooze with everyone, with his special brand of humor and insight. He was adored by poker fans here last year, and we humbly requested he make a repeat appearance this year.”
Chad said being dead money at the table is no way for him to serve the poker community.
“As I told Scott Frank, who puts the whole thing together and does a great job, my people skills, incredibly, are much better than my poker skills and I don’t have that great of people skills,” Chad said, laughing. “My poker skills are so bad, the best use of me is, since I’m so good looking and dress well and have such a sexy voice, I might as well just walk around and turn more people on instead of sitting at one table.”
But you will get a chance to play against Chad, Esfandiari and Somerville in the lead-up VIP event on May 4 ($440, 8 p.m.).
This charity series benefits a host of national and Central Florida charities. For more information, go to deepstackcharityclassic.com.
Deep Stack Schedule
May 4: Seminar with Antonio Esfandiari and Jason Somerville, 1 p.m.
May 4: VIP Celebrity Invitational Cocktail Party with Esfandiari, Somerville and Norman Chad (5:30 p.m.) at the MG on the Halifax (included for VIP ticket-holders).
May 4: VIP tournament with Esfandiari, Chad and Somerville ($440, 8 p.m.).
May 5: Deep Stack Charity Classic Main Event (with Esfandiari, Chad and Somerville, $185, 1 p.m.).