Las Vegas doesn’t seem a likely place for an event focused on the atrocities in a remote region of Sudan. And yet, the Ante Up for Africa
tournament held yesterday in Las Vegas brought out hundreds of people -- celebrities, poker players, media and spectators – with the sole purpose of raising awareness and funding to end the crisis in Darfur and other conflicts in Africa.
Ante Up for Africa is a nonprofit started in 2006
by Refugees International’s favorite poker player, Annie Duke along with Don Cheadle and Norman Epstein. Over the years, they have raised over $2 million for various organizations who work on behalf of the people in Sudan. The Vegas tournament is by far their biggest event, as it takes place just before the World Series of Poker main event.
Last night 138 people paid the $5,000 entry fee. This wasn’t just any 138 people. Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, Nelly, Sarah Silverman, and Brad Garret were just some of the celebrities who participated. I had the opportunity to ask each one of them on the red carpet why they were there and what they hoped the event would accomplish. They all expressed their concern about the atrocities in the Darfur, their desire to help the people who have been living in camps now for six years, and the hope that Ante Up for Africa would increase awareness and action to end the conflict.
Before the tournament began, I asked Don Cheadle and Annie why this event was so important to them and what they hoped it would accomplish. Don talked about a recent trip to the region and his passion to benefit the people of Darfur. But he also spoke eloquently about the need to urge U.S. policymakers to bring together the world’s leaders and make this a priority.
“The President, Vice President and Secretary of State have all spoken very passionately about this crisis,” he said. But he added that we all have to work harder to make sure that Darfur stays a priority. “It’s important that we don’t allow the attention to ebb, and instead help bring this back to the forefront.”
Annie also explained why they had chosen Refugees International and the Enough Project as two of the beneficiaries of the event.
“We know that over two million people are in Darfur and can’t speak for themselves,” Annie said. "We need groups like Refugees International and the Enough Project to go in and put pressure on and to advocate for people who can’t do it themselves.”
Thanks, Annie! But we also know that those who came out last night to show their support for the people of Darfur and add their voices are instrumental to making our efforts succeed.
At the end of the evening, some of the biggest names in poker sat down to the final table, including last year’s Ante Up winner John Hennigan, Erik Seidel and Chris Ferguson. Refugees International supporters Rafe Furst and Phil Gordon were also at the table and finished 3rd and 6th place respectively. As the ante increased to $30,000, one of the players yelled out, “Annie, look, I’m anteing up for Africa!” In the end, Alex Bolotin won first place, a World Series of Poker player who enthusiastically donated 50% of his winnings to the cause -- one of many players who showed their generosity that evening. The event will be broadcast on ESPN in August, so you’ll be able to watch all the action for yourself.
“The crisis in Darfur should be of great concern to everyone,” Annie said to me earlier that day. “A world without refugees is not a stable world. The less atrocities in the world, well, that’s better for all of us.”
We’re so thankful that Don, Annie, last night’s players and the entire poker community is working towards that better world.
July 23, 2009
| Tagged as: Chad, Sudan, Neglected Crises