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Ante Up For Africa event brings a different kind of chaos to WSOP2 July 2009
LAS VEGAS – After two fairly sleepy days here at the World Series of Poker, the craziness returned to the Rio on Thursday afternoon in the form of the third annual Ante Up For Africa charity event.
The tournament – which was created by Annie Duke and Don Cheadle and provides aid and assistance to the survivors of the crisis in Darfur – draws not only the top poker players in the world, but some A-List Hollywood-type celebrities as well. And, in turn, the fans turn out in droves. Adding to the chaos was the fact that ESPN is televising the event for the first time this year, which means there were as many ESPN crew members flying around the Amazon Room as there were poker players.
The day began with the red carpet, which is always kind of amusing to witness. This year's red carpet was set in a much more congested area than last year and that had some of the camera and microphone toting members of the media a little cranky. The photo opps and stand-up interviews were supposed to begin at 2 p.m., but the first celebrity – Brad Garrett of "Everybody Loves Raymond" fame – didn't pop his head out of the private suite set up for the participants until almost 20 minutes after the hour. But as soon as Garrett's big 6-foot-5 frame stepped on the red carpet, the frenzy began.
Some of these people from the media must be tremendous rebounders in their pick-up hoop games at the local YMCA because they're quite versed at boxing out for position. And the best part is that each media member thinks he or she is more important than the next and that can lead to some interesting glares and words being exchanged.
After Garrett got midway down the carpet, the parade of stars continued. Charles Barkley. Cedric The Entertainer. Hershel Walker. Dean Cain. Jason Alexander. Montel Williams. Sarah Silverman. And, of course, Cheadle and Duke.
As for poker pros, there were plenty on hand – Phil Hellmuth, Barry Greenstein, Andy Bloch and Peter Eastgate, to name a few. But today was a day for the "other" stars to shine and the poker celebs were more than happy to step aside.
Ben Affleck and Matt Damon were the biggest stars in attendance and they got the most attention from the media, which got more agitated as the one-hour red carpet session wore on.
But the guy who got the room buzzing the most was Mike Tyson. The former heavyweight champ tried to slip into the room without hitting the carpet, but that plan was blown out of the water when Barkley spotted him in the corner of the room.
"Well look it here!" Barkley bellowed as he pointed over the media throng. "Mr. Mike Tyson is in the house. What's up Mike? How you doing?"
Suddenly the entire room turned around and was focused on Iron Mike, who was wearing a white dress suit and was holding hands with his new wife. As Tyson reluctantly walked around the other end of the room to begin his walk down the carpet, he shook hands with at least a dozen people. And every one that did get a piece of Iron Mike had a look on their face that said, "Holy shit. I just shook hands with Mike Tyson."
There was also a sense in the room that made me think everybody was hoping nobody would say something to piss Mike off. Because Tyson – who turned 43 just this week – appears to still have what it takes to clear out an entire room rather easily. Indeed, he is one mountain of a man.
As the players made their way into the Rio to begin the tournament, the action outside the ropes intensified. Except this time it was the fans throwing elbows and clearing out space like Dennis Rodman (who, by the way, was a no-show for the event). Spectators were climbing all over rails and standing on chairs just to get a glimpse of the celebs. Girls were swooning at the sight of Damon and Affleck. Men were drooling at the sight Meg Tilly in her low-cut lavender dress.
When the $5,000 buy-in tournament was about to finally start, the organizers asked all of the players to sit down at their assigned tables. Both of the ESPN featured tables were in use for the first time in nearly a week and the cards went in the air. The mood was casual and festive. Hellmuth served as the MC and went from table to table calling the action. The ESPN cameras and boom mikes were everywhere. The players at the tables were laughing and joking and the fans had permanent smiles on their faces.
The jovial mood will be replaced by a more serious tone tomorrow when the 2009 Main Event begins. It will be a different kind of craziness at the Rio. One where the actual poker – and not the people playing the game – will be the focus.
Ante Up For Africa event brings a different kind of chaos to WSOP is republished from CasinoVendors.com.
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