On Tuesday evening at the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure, a bit of lighthearted nervousness swept though the Imperial Ballroom as players began to hear incomplete rumors of an earthquake in Haiti. The words “tsunami warning” were tossed around as apathetically as a bad-beat story. For a few hours, the running joke at the tables was figuring out how to secure your chips if a huge wave roared through the ballroom.
The light discourse of hypotheticals and "what-ifs" was, unfortunately, no comparison to the tragedy that was actually unfolding 500 miles to the south. A catastrophic earthquake crumbled the Haitian captial city of Port-au-Prince and casualty estimates have climbed to six figures. The bits of news and head-turning photographs that have begun to appear in the media show what a massive disaster has befallen the island.
The last 48 hours have seen a widespread outpouring of financial support for Haiti, and the poker community is stepping up in its own way. Calvin Ayre, the founder of Bodog, issued a personal challenge to the online gaming industry. In a blog post on his website, Ayre says his foundation will make an initial donation of £10,000 to U.K.-based Oxfam, a charitable organization that deals with natural disasters. He writes that "the global online gaming community has a duty to do something," then challenges others to follow his lead. Ayre says he'll match any amount donated up to $1 million and Bodog's online poker team is already responding with Evelyn Ng and David Williams spreading the word via Twitter.
This morning, PokerStars began a charity effort of its own through its online poker client. PokerStars will match every dollar that is donated and all of the money collected will go directly to the Red Cross. There are two ways to contribute:
1) In the PokerStars client menu, select Requests -> Transfer Funds. You can send your donation of any amount to the user account “Haiti Fund”.
2) Enter one of the place-holder tournaments called “Haiti Earthquake Relief” located under Tourney -> Special. These are not actual tournaments but dummy lobbies where you can donate and display your support for the relief effort. The buy-ins range from $1 to $1,000.
As of the time of this writing, thousands of people had already contributed, with the numbers ticking higher and higher by the minute. The $1,000 lobby shows that 14 players had already stepped up to the plate in a big way, with Team PokerStars Online Anders “Donald” Berg and Team PokerStars Pros Gavin Griffin and John Duthie among those leading the charity push. The lobbies have only been active for a few hours and the support is overwhelmingly positive. If you’re looking for a way to help the victims of this disaster in Haiti, PokerStars has provided an easy and effective means to donate. Please consider giving what you can to aid in their efforts.
If you don’t have a PokerStars account yet, you can sign up and get going right here.