It’s a hot and humid evening as I walk to Current at Chelsea Piers. I’m headed to Blinds and Justice, a charity tournament hosted by Vanessa Selbst, the #1 female poker player of all time. The proceeds of the event are going to The Urban Justice Center, a non-profit organization that has provided legal services to NYC’s underprivileged folks for over 30 years. First prize is a $15,000 package to the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure in January 2016. The PCA is a big deal, poker pros from around the world travel to Atlantis in the Bahamas to play there. And this is my shot at it.
Thanks to the unseasonably late September weather, I’m sweating as I approach the registration table. Vanessa Selbst is there — it’s obvious that she’s running around hustling to make sure everything is on point because I get a quick, drive by “Hello” from her, then she zips up to a room on the 2nd floor.
The poker class.
When I registered for the charity event online, as part of the buy-in, there was an option to sign up for a poker lesson with Vanessa prior to the tournament. So I signed up for the class thinking I’d get some personalized coaching from her. Negative… I walk into the poker class and there are two tables — Vanessa’s at one and it’s chock full.
I’m disheartened for a second, but I look over at the other table and see Daniel Negreanu, and there’s a space right next to him! So I make a beeline there.
Turns out the class is super rudimentary, but I stay to get a visual on the newbies and stand next to another one of my favorite poker players of all time. Plus, we’re both dressed in similar style suit jackets and coincidentally coordinating…
Daniel is so charismatic and informative teaching his crash course in No Limit. He takes time with each person at the table, breaking down the basics of the game. When the action gets to me he looks at me smiling and says, “you look like you know what you’re doing!” Afterwards, we end the class with a group picture by the water.
I’m starving and need to fuel up, so I head to the reception area and grab a plate of catered food. Chef Abigail Kirsch’s got skills, for sure, if I wasn’t so nervous I’d have continued eating.
Close by, I see Daniel again mingling amongst the crowd. I seize the opportunity to ask him about his experience at Choice Center, and tell him about mine at Momentum Education, also a personal development program here in New York. The more we talk the more I realize our courses are very similar. During the WSOP Main Event people were giving him flak about declaring his intentions daily on Twitter, but I was 100% behind him and I can tell you from my personal experience that it works. We wrap up our convo with a hug and I head to my assigned seat for the tournament.
It’s too much, I’m in poker heaven and hell at the same time. Waiter?!? I’m gonna need another glass of wine…
The tournament goes off without a hitch. Everything flows as do the drinks, and funny guy/poker commentator Joe Stapleton keeps things light and moving, running around the tournament floor with mic in hand, calling out action.
A quick scan of the room and it’s very clear the turnout is amazing…
Aside from the two Daniels, the event is attended by poker and celebrity cachet: Erik Seidel, Andy Frankenberger, Loni Harwood, and Victor Ramdin, as well as Dulé Hill, Eric Bogosian, Hank Azaria, Jason Collins, Jazmyn Simon, Justin Pugh, and Norman Lear.
Click here to see more pictures from last year’s event.
At the break I stop by Loni Harwood’s table to say hi. We chat briefly and she introduces me to her brother, Scott. They look like they’re having fun. Back at my table the pros & some of the joes have bought add-ons, but not I. The structure is so fast and furious, it’s one of the reasons I get knocked out (see pic of me with wine above for the other #socialpoker), but I make it pretty deep, down to a few tables. What’s even better, Kid Poker knocks me out and responds to my tweet about it with a compliment. I’ll take it, thanks, Daniel!
According to Pokernews, Blinds and Justice raised over $160K for their noble cause. Kudos to Vanessa and UJC on a fantastic event and a night I’ll never forget. I’m inspired to refocus my energies on creating a charity tournament for shelter animals, a cause I’m super passionate about. Working with my sister and her rescue, Mayte’s Rescue, I only hope we can raise awareness, provide a voice for the voiceless, and have the same success by raising money for a cause that desperately needs it.
And if you didn’t make it to last year’s charity event, this year’s newly and cleverly named Justice Is Blinds, is about a month away which means you still have time to register! They’ve upped the ante so to speak and moved it to an even grander, sexier location, Capitale, in downtown Manhattan. It’s guaranteed to be bigger and better. Here’s the link where you can get more details on special guests and prizes, plus purchase a ticket / seat into the event on September 27th (with an option to register for a satellite on September 8th to win your seat, brought to you via UJC by yours truly and company). I’ll most definitely be there. Come join the fun, play poker, and donate to a great organization!