It all started over a sushi lunch. A couple years ago, while Annie Duke and Don Cheadle were teaming up on a spicy tuna roll, they decided to team up for a cause that meant a lot to them. This lead to last July's inaugural 'Ante up for Africa' poker tournament, where they saw a good opportunity to raise money for a cause they believed in with a partner (the WSOP) they knew would help raise awareness.
At the time, the duo may have just planned for it to be a 'one off' event, held annually at the WSOP designed to make some money for a good cause, and gather some of their celebrity friends together to play some poker and have a good time.
But, the pair hosted another 'Ante Up For Africa' event this past week at the San Manuel Casino near Los Angeles, CA, and thanks to a very generous donation from the casino itself, over $500,000 was raised for this very worthy cause.
"When I heard about San Manuel's decision to increase the donation to $500,000, I couldn't believe it," said Don Cheadle, co-founder of Ante Up For Africa. "I am so very grateful to them for their generosity and for helping us continue to bring the plight of the refugees of Darfur into the light."
The pair brought some of their celebrity friends out to the Inland Empire to play some poker, including Duke's brother Howard Lederer , Chris Ferguson, Phil Laak, and Andy Bloch. The LA Dodgers young first baseman James Loney was in attendance, as were charity poker regulars Willie Garson from "Sex and the City"; Josh Malina from "The West Wing"; and Scott Ian of "Anthrax".
The next big event on the Ante Up For Africa calendar will be the organizations return to the WSOP this year on July 2nd. On the eve of the Main Event, the organizers will bring together what promises to be a star studded pack of players to help raise money for this cause. Last years tournament was arguably the most star heavy charity poker tournament ever, with Hollywood heavies that included Ben Affleck, Jason Alexander, Hank Azaria, Matt Damon, Brad Garrett, Willie Garson, Mekhi Phifer, Adam Sandler and many others.
All in all, the tournaments have raised well over $1,000,000 for Darfur relief. Not bad for something that started innocently enough over some sushi.
Editors Note: Want to help in another way? Annie Duke will be out in support of poker players running in the San Diego marathon, set to take place on June 1st. Poker players can donate Ultimate Points to this cause via their accounts at Ultimate Bet . Duke was originally scheduled to run in the race, but had to withdraw due to injury.