Having been to a fair number of charity poker events over the last couple years, there was one on my calendar that for a myriad of reasons, I was really looking forward to going to. The 'Monte Carlo Night' being held at the home of Nancy Cartwright (the voice of Bart Simpson) was going to be different to me for a number of reasons.
First off, I have long believed The Simpsons to be the television show with the best writing in the history of TV. I could answer many (though not all) trivia questions about the minutiae of the show, and I have been to the Fox lot a couple times over the last 10 years to watch the actors voice the show. To play poker with those affiliated with a show that meant so much to me was going to be a lot of fun.
Secondly, I lived in Northridge for the better part of 10 years. My association with Northridge ended abruptly on January 17th, 1994, when the Northridge earthquake destroyed my home. I hadn't really been back to Northridge much since the earthquake, and it was nice to see many of the changes in the community.
Lastly, the charity being benefited was close to my heart. The charity was the Devonshire PALS (Police Activities League Supporters) Youth Center for at-risk children. One of my closest friends in high school's father was a Devonshire Division Detective, and he had a big influence on my life.
So, off we went to Northridge, and the home of Nancy Cartwright. The word 'compound' may have been a better description of Nancy's digs, as there were no fewer than three separate living structures on the property, which had a country ranch feel, complete with a horse brought in just for this event.
The scale of the event was surprising. The centerpiece of the event was a big stage, complete with lights, sound, and a 6 piece band playing for most of the evening. The stage was right in the middle of Nancy's backyard, and dozens of tables were set up around the dance floor, along with the auction and raffle prizes.
The evening kicked off with Nancy, and the 'emcee' for the evening, Tom Kenny – known to most people as the voice of cartoon character 'SpongeBob Square Pants'. Nancy and Tom kicked the evening off telling stories and jokes, sometimes in their normal voices, sometimes in their cartoon voices, and more often then not, shifting back and forth between their 'real' voice, and their more famous character voices.
Nancy (Bart) and Tom (SpongeBob) kick the evening off
In the back of the property, the 'poker room' was set up. There were 15 tables in all, and the demand was such that they had to take alternates for the $500 + rebuys event. The mix of players was what you might expect at an event like this. Poker pros, Hollywood heavyweights, and 'average joes' all sat down for an evening of poker. Some of the top names in the poker world were there, including Jennifer Harman and Marco Traniello, Men 'The Master' Nguyen, Sammy Farha, Kenna James, Jamie Gold, 2006 Ladies Champ Mary Jones, Barbara Enright, Marsha Waggoner, and Todd Brunson.
Or, was Todd there? Well, his stack was there, but due to a mix up in dates, Todd found out the event was happening only a couple hours before. Reportedly, Todd tried to hop a plane the moment he found out, but couldn't find a flight, so he made the four hour drive at the drop of a hat, arriving about an hour into play. Floorperson Justin Huxley had been given permission to rebuy to Todd's stack as he saw fit – all on Todd's dime – and 'the Hux' used that privilege early and often.
The poker staff from the Commerce Casino donated their time to deal and administrate the tournament, under the watchful eye of Commerce Tournament Director Cheri Dokken. The event was organized by Nancy's people with the poker tournament being produced by Annie Van Bebber of PokerCares.
Chips were flying, the term 'rebuy' was being heard a lot, and lots of money was being raised for a good cause. Meanwhile, over on the stage items were being auctioned off, and raffle tickets were being called out to lucky winners. Speaking of lucky, despite there being hundreds of people at this event, and thousands of raffle tickets sold, one guy at my table won three of the ten packages being raffled off. I learned the man in question produced infomercials for a living – let's hope his next 'magic blade', or 'Miracle Scalp' is as lucky as his raffle tickets were on this night.
The tables slowly combined, with the poker pros, and Hollywood figures like Brad Garrett and Mary Lynn Rajskub (Chloe from the Fox show '24') a distant memory. When we reached the final table, one familiar poker face was left standing. 2006 WSOP Champ Jamie Gold made the final table, finishing fifth. For his trouble, Jamie won a super satellite seat at the WSOP next year. Players chided Gold with comments like 'Good luck in the super, Jamie'.
The winner was not a pro poker player, but someone very familiar to Nancy Cartwright. Jack Thomas, who produces a Disney Channel show called 'The Replacements' that Nancy voices the lead character for, took down the tournament, and picked up some nice prizes.
Overall, a good time was had by all, and a lot of money was raised for a great cause.
Editors Note: Pics courtesy Rob Gracie