If there had been a motto for the second Variety Charity Poker FUNRaiser tournament last night, it would be bigger. Better. Bravo!
Last year’s event raised $ 180,000 for special needs children and was the first of its kind in Israel. There was a simple but unconventional solution to tackling the country’s delicate legality problems: ALL proceeds went to charity (ie, the players were fighting for pride and a symbolic trophy). After organizing a successful event in 2018, the organizers wanted to further enhance this year’s opportunity with an increase in number and volume, and they have certainly achieved that!
A larger venue was to host 33 poker tables, where 297 players who paid the $ 1,000 buy-in could compete against each other on a loud, exciting and fun evening of poker and fun. As with all charity poker tournaments, a fast-paced structure of 12-minute blind levels with starting piles of 10,000 and blinds starting at 100-100 ensured that the field was reduced to the final table by a reasonable hour. Rebuys were also allowed (with the full $ 1,000 being a charitable donation) and were exploited by some players who went bankrupt early but still had a good time shrugging their shoulders and trying to break heads with local celebrities and some big names Poker player present.
In addition to the atmosphere, each time the blinds were raised, the well-known Western WSOP twang from the old school was played, and the table numbers were marked by numbered heart balloons, with the hearts being part of the Variety Fund logo. A total of over $ 300,000 (1 million shekels) has been raised, a previously unprecedented charitable donation that will work wonders to help Israel’s special needs children.
The Stars Come Out
Just before the event kicked off last year, a video featuring a dozen well-known poker players was played to the delight of the assembled crowd, in which the crowd was well received and the initiative praised. This year, a few well-known stars of the poker world have made a special effort to travel all the way to the Holy Land and personally attend the celebrations. Among the celebrities were Patrik Antonius, Michael “the Grinder” Mizrachi and Melanie Weisner.
Remarkably, each of these poker players is connected to Israel. Antonius’ partner, Maya, is Israeli, Mizrachi’s grandmother and other family members live in Israel, and Weisner has already made several trips to Israel and made some great friends in the country. I had the opportunity to briefly meet with each of them during the event as they shared their thoughts about being able to participate in and support the fundraisers:
The Israel Poker Academy (IPA) provided the dozens of dealers, poker tables and other equipment needed to run tournament logistics – all voluntarily at their own expense – with IPA co-founders Eyal Eshkar, Shai Zurr and (Cardplayer Lifestyle contributing strategy columnist) Stas Tishkevich (who took 16th place) performed to further represent the poker school and take part in the felt.
Local celebrities also came in huge numbers to play some cards and have fun. Hundreds of people accompanied the players to insult them during the gala evening.