Although there have been European Poker Awards since 2001 to recognize the accomplishments of both players and organizers in the poker industry, we had nothing similar in the US until recently despite the fact that the roots of the 2003 poker boom took place right here in the US. That changed last year when the Global Poker Index began hosting the American Poker Awards.
While I thought it was cool that poker was finally going to have an awards ceremony on this side of the pond after all these years, I honestly never expected to be nominated for an award unless I went on some insane heater, especially since there wasn’t a charity category in the European Poker Awards before then. So I was surprised, honored and excited when the Charity Series of Poker (CSOP) was nominated for one of the inaugural American Poker Awards last year in the Charitable Initiative of the Year category.
I was also, however, pretty disappointed when we didn’t win the award to be perfectly honest. I used that disappointment in the most productive way I could. In much the same way, I tried to use my 2nd and 3rd place finishes in major events as motivation to keep improving my game in preparation for the next opportunity. I tried even harder in year two of operation than I did in year one, and the results followed.
The CSOP inaugural event at Planet Hollywood in Vegas raised nearly $15K for Three Square Food Bank which wasn’t bad, but was nothing compared to the $42K the event raised at the same price point in Season 2. Our event at Seminole Hard Rock in Florida went from $15K to $34K raised for Habitat for Humanity of Broward County, and our most recent Borgata event was also on the uptick from $8K to over $13K raised for Habitat for Humanity of Atlantic County and the Community FoodBank of NJ.
More importantly, the events have really taken on a life of their own and become something that a lot of players look forward to as an opportunity to have a few drinks, let loose, and enjoy themselves in a home game atmosphere where they don’t have to play their “A” game because they only care that the charities end up as winners for that tournament. I had a recreational player I’d never met tell me recently that he played a CSOP event and it was literally the most fun he’s ever had playing poker. That meant the world to me because it was my goal all along.
When the nominees for this year’s American Poker Awards were announced, I was happy that the CSOP had another shot at the award. However, I’ll admit that I felt a little less confident that we’d win going in this year than I did last year. Maybe it was the loss last year, maybe I’m managing my expectations a little better than I used to, and maybe it was just that I was up against some stiff competition in the form of three worthy causes run and hosted by some great people and big names.
This year’s nominees for Charitable Initiative of the Year were:
- Chad Brown Memorial Tournament
- Charity Series of Poker
- Tiger’s Poker Night
- WSOP One Drop High Roller / Litte One for One Drop
When they opened the envelope and announced that the Charity Series of Poker was the winner I was a little stunned. I’d managed my expectations a little too well, I suppose! Fortunately, I’d dusted off the acceptance speech I’d prepared the previous year, added a little shpiel about how much better season two was than season one, and I actually think I did a pretty good job delivering it despite the open bar pre-party festivities!
I think all four deserved the award in their own way and I’m glad there’s so much competition in this category. It’s great to see so many organizations using poker to raise funds and awareness for some great causes. Not only do the charities need it, but poker as an industry needs it. Too many of the mainstream headlines about poker are about the dark side of the game being exposed and I hope all of the charity efforts in poker can do just a little bit to counter those headlines, especially as we try to get online poker legalized and regulated in as many US states as possible.
A little part of me has to admit that I would have been just fine watching the award go to the Chad Brown Memorial Tournament. Chad was an amazing person who had an infectious smile and was relentlessly positive. Even when you could see just how sick he was, you could simultaneously see the same zest for life he always had. He’ll be missed by many and I’m glad that an event was organized in his honor. (If I were on the panel I’d have voted for them and I hope they win it next year.)
Some people ask me why I say “we” when I talk about the Charity Series of Poker since I’ve become the face of the organization while personally pushing this thing along from idea to inception to reality. I always say “we” because I never could have done it alone. Even though I only started the Charity Series of Poker because I knew how much support we would get from the poker community, it’s still incredible to see so many people get behind this dream of mine in such a big way. I just want to thank everybody who has been involved with the CSOP, even in the smallest of ways, from the bottom of my heart. You’re all helping me complete some of my life’s work, and I’m eternally grateful for your assistance.
I’d especially like to thank my Board of Directors where I’m joined by Mike Frazin and Matt Savage. I’d like to thank our sponsors: Great Shot Golf, All-American Dave’s Fit Food Truck, ProCaliber Poker Tables and The Doc’s Place Restaurant in Somers Point, NJ. Most importantly, I’d like to thank Seminole Hard Rock, Planet Hollywood, and of course Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa for playing host to our events and going above and beyond to help make the events a memorable experience for all involved. Here’s to many more years of having great times for great causes. Salud!