Win A $1,000 Tournament Ticket To The Event Of Your Choice!

Gone to Guyana Watch

Victor Ramdin Uses Poker to Help His People

by Seth Niesen |  Published: Oct 02, 2007

Ensnarled in crippling New York City traffic, I decided to use the opportunity to question Victor Ramdin about what I had gotten myself into. Ramdin had invited me, a reporter, to help with his annual medical outreach program, Guyana Watch. I was not invited because I was a journalist, but because of my two years spent as a paramedic ambulance emergency medical technician.

I steered the conversation about the trip to Victor's home country of Guyana. Sandwiched between Brazil, Suriname, and Venezuela, Guyana, roughly the size of Idaho, claims a population of more than 700,000. Once under British imperial rule, it is the only English-speaking country in South America.

Guyana Watch, with which Ramdin has been associated since 1994 and now acts as vice president, provides medical care for as many people as possible throughout the nation. On this particular trip, 16 doctors, one dentist, and a support staff of 25 from around the United States would work at seven clinics located in various parts of the country. In addition to general care, Guyana Watch also identifies people who require life-saving surgery, and then ensure that they receive urgent care.

The Suitcase Situation
Once traffic cleared, it was a short ride to our destination, the L. Fernandez Pharmacy located on Liberty Avenue in Jamaica, Queens. Victor proudly called the area Little Guyana, and said it holds the largest population of Guyanese outside of their country.

We entered the store and descended into the basement, to find 10-year Guyana Watch veteran S.P. Mehta huddled over hundreds of white pill bottles. In the cramped subterranean room, more than $250,000 worth of drugs was waiting to be packed into suitcases. Mehta, an Indian expatriate, is a small-framed, cock-shouldered man, and the pharmacist of Guyana Watch. After Victor made a brief introduction, Mehta clapped his hands, "OK, you guys, better get to work." After the command, Ramdin grabbed the first suitcase and we began loading them to their 50-pound capacity. Mehta picked through the medications littered throughout the entire room, dancing around 15-pound boxes of pill bottles, blood pressure machines, and thousands of Tums (which are astonishingly heavy in bulk), to orchestrate the assembly of each suitcase. When I stood for a break, Ramdin offered, "If you think this is hard, just wait till the clinics."

Straight Into Battle
After flying through the night, we arrived at the Cheddi Jagan airport in Guyana with the rest of the team on July 27. There was no break between the flight and work. Once we cleared customs, we traveled straight to the first clinic at the Timehri nursery school. Hundreds of people were already waiting in line, and they were an explosion of vibrant color that buzzed with excitement. The school itself was a dilapidated, one-room wooden structure, complete with peeling paint, exposed nails, and deeply scarred chalkboards. Our van came to an abrupt halt and Victor leapt out of the lead vehicle. He quickly assumed a leadership role, and dictated orders to the local volunteers and support staff. Half an hour later, the school was as ready as possible.

The game plan was to funnel people through a door in the middle of the schoolhouse. They would move through a registration station, where basic information was taken, then on to a blood sugar and blood pressure testing area. After preliminary tests were completed, patients would line up to see a physician. If drugs were prescribed, they would queue for the pharmacy.

I was assigned to registration. Many people complained of stomach pain, and I naively marked it on the sheets. It worked well, until I noticed a consistent pattern of hearing about stomach pain. I then watched locals point to their chests. In Guyana, the difference between stomach and chest has been lost, spurring the confusion. This eventually led the doctors to launch an educational campaign to differentiate the two. Other locals described problems I had never heard. Complaints of, "I got de piles," or, "I been blowin'," were met with my blank stare. A member of the support staff laughed as he explained that piles were hemorrhoids, and blowin' was breathing hard. Aside from the individual problems described by the locals, diabetes, high blood pressure, and rotting teeth plagued the people.

Serenity Shattered
Late afternoon set in and the sun dipped lower, reflecting off the large muddy river across the street. Most villagers had cleared the clinic and the atmosphere relaxed. However, the few serene moments were quickly disrupted by an emergency case. A woman in her late 20s barged into the clinic, clutching a small girl, around 7 years old. Lethargic and disoriented, her limbs hung like a marionette with cut strings, her voice nothing more than a distant groan. Her glazed eyes stared lifelessly into the distance. Emergency medicine specialists Dr. Craig Mochson and Dr. Vishal Bhakta, as well as pediatrician Dr. Dunisha Ranasuriya, reacted instinctively. Within seconds, she was on a table, hooked up to the little diagnostic equipment on hand. Without the modern equipment necessary to achieve diagnosis or treatment, the docs bounced ideas off each other. They concluded that the best course of action was immediate transport to the nearest hospital, 30 minutes away in the capital city of Georgetown. Ambulance coverage in this area was sporadic at best, and the most practical way was via taxi. Ramdin quickly arranged for a cab at our location, and as it pulled up, he produced a large wad of Guyanese dollars, paid the cabbie, then slipped the mother a handful of cash. She ducked into the backseat and was gone; we never learned her name.

The clinic was shut down a short time later, and the group enjoyed a cold Banks beer from the dockside shop across the street. We toasted to our day-one accomplishment, 365 patients treated.

The Benefactors

That night, we assembled for a reception hosted by the group that runs Guyana Watch. Aside from our core group, there were numerous guests, and the Guyanese government was represented by two ministers. In addition to Victor, Guyana Watch is run by a group of wealthy individuals from the country: Richie Anderson, a restaurateur; Lal Somwaru, a travel agent; George Subray; and President of Guyana Watch Tony Yassin. This group, dubbed the "benefactors," handled every aspect of our trip, from organizing the clinics to arranging meals. Regardless of location, there was an open bar every night and Guyanese rum flowed the entire trip. Despite the strong penchant for drink, the group always emerged rested for the next clinic, cheerfully operating on few hours of sleep.

The Ups and Downs
The next morning, we crossed the Demerara Harbor Bridge en route to our second clinic. One of the longest floating bridges in the world, it was a great source of pride for the Guyanese in our party. The second site was the Leonora Primary School, in the township of Lenora. Here, Guyana Watch treated more than 800 patients throughout the day.

At this clinic, I met Rate and David Jacobs, a mother and son who had been specifically helped by Ramdin. Two years ago, Guyana Watch identified 13 children who needed life-saving surgery, and Ramdin stepped up to the plate. Not only did he donate the money necessary for every procedure, he and Dr. Mochson traveled with the children to India, where the surgery is cheapest. Though he did not tell me the total cost of the trip, the surgeries alone averaged out to $10,000 each.

When asked about the trip, Ramdin offered, "That's one of the reasons I play poker. The more money I win, the more people I can help." David, now almost 4, had a hereditary heart condition that would have killed him without intervention. When I asked David how he felt, he hid behind his mother, and flashed a toothless grin. After some prodding from his mother, he said, "I feel good." I caught a glimpse of Ramdin, hovering just close enough to hear the conversation, a look of pride on his face.

Not all of the stories at the Lenora clinic were as happy. A mother brought her 4-year-old daughter, Angela Goberbnan, to see Dr. Ranasuriya. Her story was a sad one; born a normal young girl, an illness had damaged her brain, rendering her unresponsive. The mother hoped that the team of American doctors could help, but unfortunately she was beyond treatment.

Boating to Victor's

Over the next five days, Guyana Watch held clinics throughout the nation. The fifth day was somewhat of a homecoming for Ramdin. We left before 7 a.m. and headed for a port, where we boarded speedboats to carry us across the Essequibo River. The 20-foot-long wooden crafts were worn but seaworthy, and in minutes we were flying across the silt-stained river. Halfway through the journey, Ramdin turned to me, yelling over the whine of the motor, "This is where I was born." He pointed to an island we were passing. It was roughly three miles wide and surrounded by mangrove trees, their ropelike roots entangling almost all of its perimeter. "Its name is Leguan," Ramdin explained. "I lived there until I was 8; we were very poor. This is why I come every year, to help the people of places like this." As we passed by, I did not see a single structure.

The Perfect Outcome
The final clinic was held at a school in the Bath settlement. Halfway through the day, Ramdin yanked me from my post and took me to Dr. Craig Mochson. He was talking to Vasmattie Ramdatn and her 5-year-old son Aditye. Ramdin urged, "This is the type of case we are looking for; talk to them."

Dr. Mochson explained the case: "This little guy has something called tetralogy of Fallot. It's a congenital disorder in which the heart chambers are connected in completely the wrong way, so there is more than one hole in the heart. This problem leads to a lack of oxygen in the blood, and it's a severe problem that gets worse with age. Without surgery, he will die from the condition. With surgery, he can expect almost a full recovery." Within minutes, Ramdin and Yassin have taken down the family's information and pledged their support.

Yassin explained, "The family already has raised some money to have the surgery done. Guyana Watch will give them the rest of the money, and provide the necessary support to have the surgery scheduled."

"I anticipate the child will have the surgery before the end of August," said Victor.

Presidential Reception
That night, the benefactors arranged a reception with the president of Guyana, Bharrat Jagdeo. It took place in his Statehouse, a beautiful 19th-century wooden building. It featured open panels for windows and an army of wait staff wielding polished silver trays. He thanked Guyana Watch for its pledged support in the future. Our group brought up questions and concerns to the president, and he addressed each one eloquently. Ramdin did not participate, preferring to sip rum on the balcony with the benefactors.

Guyana Watch treated 3,245 people in the seven clinics throughout Guyana. On our final full day, 15 more people went for echocardiograms sponsored by the group. Tony Yassin estimated that the group identified an additional 25 people who needed life-saving surgery, and he stayed in Guyana in order to facilitate their care.

I spoke with Ramdin about the nature of the trip, and charity in general, before he left. "I hope you learned about the nature of charity on this trip," he said. "It doesn't take money to give back to humanity. Every man can give his time and his energy regardless of wealth. When we leave this world, we take nothing with us; if you are lucky and make a lot of money, share it. If everyone made a difference in someone's life, this world would be a better place."

Heads Up With Victor Ramdin
By Seth Niesen

Since bursting onto the tournament trail at the end of 2002, Annand "Victor" Ramdin has established himself as one of the top poker players in the world. He started out as a mixed-game player and his skill quickly translated into his first major score, a win at the 2003 Orleans Open in the Omaha eight-or-better main event, good for $24,550. Ramdin quickly learned that no-limit hold'em was his strongest suit, and it's where he earned a majority of his more than $2.2 million in lifetime tournament winnings. Ramdin took third place, for $203,700, in the 2003 Showdown at the Sands main event, where he outlasted Daniel Negreanu, T.J. Cloutier, and Mike Matusow at the final table. Ramdin's largest win was his first World Poker Tour title at the 2006 Foxwoods Poker Classic, worth $1,331,889. Ramdin also has nine World Series of Poker cashes, and one final table.

I sat down with Victor in the lobby of Buddies International Hotel on the final day of his annual medical mission, Guyana Watch, in South America. His English is ripe with the Caribbean accent of his native Guyana, and it's clear that his nationality is still as much a part of him today as it was when he was born. I decided it would be easiest to take it from the beginning.

Seth Niesen: Tell me about your life; how did you get where you are today?

Victor Ramdin: I was born on the island of Leguan, located at the mouth of the Essequibo River in the country of Guyana. I lived with my father and mother, who married at age 14. I was born a year later, and we were a typical family. We made money from rice and vegetable farming as well as fishing for sustenance. When I was 8, we left the island and went to the capitol city of Georgetown. The cost of living was very high, and my mom worked as a baby sitter and my father a zookeeper. I grew up there, and attended primary school. I really never did like school, because all I could think about was making money. At 11, I started a side job on the weekends, working for a very old lady. It was selling women's and children's underwear at a market. She paid me $2 for two days, which was around 50 American cents. I started learning the business, and every weekend I looked forward to going to work. Eventually, she got too old and retired, so I purchased the business. I dropped out of high school, and never wrote the exams to get to college. We just couldn't afford it at that time. At that point, I made the decision to work rather than go to school. After making enough money, I tried to get into the promised land, the United States.

SN: How did you get into the country?

VR: I had to travel illegally, and made several attempts to sneak in. My first attempt was very disappointing. I remember getting to America, while I was in transit to another country. I saw all the beautiful buildings, and thought, "I made it, my life will be so much better." I was caught trying to get out of the airport and was sent back. It was the lowest point of my life. I remember on the way back that they gave me a big chicken to eat, but I couldn't eat it. In my country at that time, it was such a big deal to get a piece of chicken, because we were so poor. My disappointment was so great, I just couldn't eat it. I was depressed and lost my appetite. When I got home, I lost like 20 pounds. I tried again and failed, but was determined to make it. Finally, my third time, I made it through.

SN: How did you make it through?

VR: I was in transit, and the smugglers were able to sneak me out of the airport. I remember on one of the trips, one of the girls was raped. It happened right in the house where we were staying. He told her that if she didn't sleep with him, you know, something bad was going to happen. It was really tough, really hard. I was right there, and I could have done something, you know, but if I did, I wasn't getting on the flight. She was a young girl, too, but these are the things that happen when you are on those crazy trips getting to the promised land. It was hard, but I don't regret it.

SN: Once in the United States, what did you do?

VR: Once I got there, I was living in the Bronx and I needed a job. My first was working in a mortuary; I lasted one day. I saw a guy who was shot through the back of his head; the whole thing was opened up. I never went back, not even to get my check. I don't remember the place and I don't want to remember. After that, I was home for a week and a friend recommended Guyana Watch President Tony Yassin to me. He gave me a job, and it was two hours back and forth each way. I was packing fish in a freezer for his grocery stores. It was very long hours, and when you work with fish, it gets into your pores and you smell. I had a Mexican friend, and when we would get on the train after work, people would leave the cabin. They would just move away because we stunk; we couldn't smell it, but everyone else was disgusted. After about three years with Tony, I went to him and told him I wanted to open a business and compete with him. I had a good relationship with Tony, and he said, "Go for it, I'll support you." It was weird because I was competing with him, but he supported me. So, I opened one store in 1991, a West Indian grocery store, selling fish and all kinds of other products. My mom was the owner because I had no papers, but I was running the business. I then opened a second store. I then got into real estate, which eventually led to dollar stores, which is what I really like. A guy comes in to buy a pack of condoms, then spends $10 on 10 different items. Those stores are my bread and butter, and they are what make me the most money today.

SN: How did you get into poker?

VR: Along the way, I had a few hobbies, one of which was pool. I used to play four-ball billiards, and I won a national championship. It was my high point in my career in sports. In the United States, I played a lot of pool in the bars. The problem was, we would always end up drinking. It was not leading me to a healthy life, and I was getting fatter and fatter by the day. I wanted to do something that would get me away from drinking, and in late 2002, I found it in poker. After pool games, the guys would start playing cards in the bar, a wild-card game. Even though I lost my first few times, I fell in love with the game. I wanted to explore poker more, so I took up stud high-low. I started at $30-$60, which was too high for someone who barely knew the rules. I ended up losing almost $40,000 in the first six months. Finally, a friend of mine from Guyana, who was a professional cash-game player, took me aside and said, "You're a real idiot; you just come here to donate your money every day. These white boys come here and take your money; why don't you come and get some lessons? You're a fish, and you're degrading Guyana because everyone is laughing at you." I took that personally, so he started to train me. I did improve, but I was still a par player in the game. I quit pool and darts to focus on poker. It's a sick game, and once it's in your blood, you can't stop.

SN: I've heard rumors that Phil Ivey took you on as a protégé; is that true?

VR: Ivey never took me on as a protégé, but I have had many conversations with him about poker. I have played at the same table with him many times, and have had the opportunity to ask him about decisions I made along the way. Phil has been very supportive of me playing poker, and always seems to be able to answer my questions. I think my style is similar to his, except that he is such a great player. If I had to put my money on one guy to make the right move or the big bluff, it would be him. When I ask, it seems that I always get the answer I'm looking for from him. He's a little bit of a mentor, and greatly helped my game. Phil is the man; he knows poker inside and out. When I'm struggling, the thought of Phil Ivey telling me something like, "Hang in there," is truly inspiring.

SN: Do you consider yourself a professional player?

VR: I think I'm a semipro. I don't think I play enough tournaments to be considered a pro. When I win two more championships, then you can say what you want. As of today, I don't think I am. In order to be a pro, you have to win and play every damn day. You have to eat, sleep, and bleed poker. I have businesses and a family; I'm playing leisurely. When I do play, I do well against the pros, but I don't think I have earned the title as of yet.

SN: Do you still play cash games?

VR: I do, and that's one of the reasons they call me a pokerholic. I sleep only four to five hours a night; if I sleep too much, I don't feel right. When I play in a major tournament and it gets off at midnight, I can't go to bed and try to sleep 10 hours. People say I'm sick, because I'll go and play in cash games until it's time to sleep.

SN: Have you ever sat in the "big game"?

VR: I've sat in the big game a couple of times, but I'm not in the frame of mind for it. I have a good bankroll and money management. I can play as high as I'd like, but I would be pissed if I lost 50 percent of my bankroll. That's what happens to some of these guys who sit in the game with big egos. The highest I've played is High Stakes Poker, and it was a short session. I knew I could lose only so much, and it was fun playing with the big boys. But, no, I wouldn't risk my bankroll.

SN: How important is bankroll management?

VR: It is the most important factor. If you have a great week or month, then play above your head and lose it all back, it's crippling. You have to play within your limits and cap what you lose in a session. You can extend a little bit, but sometimes you have to shut it down. You have to stay away from going on tilt.

SN: How do you deal with tilt?

VR: I still play mostly tournaments, and a lot of big pros will tell you never to play live immediately after busting out. Go walk around, but you must get out of the casino. Don't even go up to your room; get off the whole property, just get out. Sometimes if I take a bad beat early in a tournament, I will leave the table, as well. I know that if I'm angry and will play poorly, it's better just to walk away and recompose.

SN: What makes you a successful poker player?

VR: Preparation. When you are playing in these big tournaments, you have to treat it like a job. When I'm playing in a tournament, I have a routine. Every morning, I wake up and work out before I play; it helps me focus for the task at hand. There are a lot of players who will fly in late and go straight to a tournament, or will oversleep and have to sprint down to the poker room. They are not focused, and therefore cannot be at the top of their mental game. You don't often see those players win consistently; they may hit once or twice, but over the long term, it brings their game down. If you talk to any world-class player, he does what he needs to do to be 100 percent in every tournament. It may be sleeping 10 hours a day or not drinking the night before, but it is consistent throughout all of the big winners. Winning a major tournament is hard, and you have to be as prepared as possible to play your best.

SN: How often do you play online?

VR: I play 20 hours a week on PokerStars, as they currently sponsor me. It's great, because a lot of people try to challenge you because your name is Victor Ramdin or Phil Ivey. I get so much action because people want to say, "I beat Victor Ramdin."

SN: How do you think business and poker relate?

VR: They relate a whole lot. In both poker and business, you are put to the test when you have to lay your money on the line. In poker, you may make a decision that involves hundreds of thousands of dollars. It's the same in business; you may not have all the information, but sometimes you need to make a decision. I have no problem saying yes or no right away. Both are about making informed, solid decisions under pressure.

SN: What does the future hold for you?

I want to continue with poker, especially because of the charity work I do. It gives me great pleasure when I can make a difference in someone's life. Poker is one of the few ways you can get the kind of money needed to help many people. My businesses give me enough to live my life the way I want to live, with a little charity. But with poker, I can win 10 times that amount. Poker is one of the few jobs in which, on any given day, you can walk out with a million dollars. I can't wait until I retire and dedicate my life to poker and my family. I'm a good player, but playing full time can only make me better. Right now, there is a lot of room for improvement, in both poker and my charity work.

Charity Finds a Home in Poker
By Ryan Lucchesi

"If you have a chance to make life better for others and fail to do so, you are wasting your time on earth."
- Roberto Clemente

Over the past few years, the game of poker and the people who play it have become increasingly involved in philanthropic pursuits. With the increased popularity of the game, charity poker tournaments have gained momentum and, in turn, the poker community has been able to provide a lot of help to those struggling with disease, poverty, and hunger.

The involvement of charities at the 2007 World Series of Poker is a shining example of how deeply ingrained charity work has become in the poker community. The highly publicized Ante Up for Africa charity poker tournament raised $500,000 for Darfur charities. The event brought together poker professionals, professional athletes, good-hearted citizens, and celebrities, including much of the cast from Ocean's Thirteen, in a $5,000 buy-in no-limit hold'em tournament. The event was co-hosted by Annie Duke and Don Cheadle, and was held on July 5, the day before the main event began.

After the tournament, PokerStars generously increased the amount of aid that the poker world was able to send to relief efforts in Darfur. PokerStars gave $1 million to the Not On Our Watch organization, which was founded by Don Cheadle and other members of the cast of Ocean's Thirteen to support the victims of Darfur.

Joseph Hachem took a keen interest in the charity efforts on the matter, and he traveled to Cannes, in south France, to play some poker with the famous founders of N.O.O.W., as well as exchange ideas about the relief efforts. "The whole focus was on Darfur. We spent most of the time talking about what's going on, where the charity is going, what its next steps are going to be. They're going to be actively pushing this in the future, and PokerStars and Joe Hachem are going to be involved," said Hachem. He further added, "Look, it's great to be able to give something back. You reach a point in your life where you think, my God, how fortunate I am to be in this position; what can we do to help others?"

"The Robin Hood of Poker" Barry Greenstein also was touched by the large donation. "I'm glad to see that they gave a real amount. If online sites start doing things like that, giving away millions of dollars, we can make a difference in the world," said Greenstein. In the pantheon of philanthropic poker players, Greenstein looms large. He picked up his chivalrous nickname after people learned that he was donating 100 percent of his tournament winnings to various charities. The chief benefactor of Greenstein's generosity has been Children Incorporated, which provides food, shelter, and clothing to children in 21 countries.

Another charity presence at the WSOP was the Bad Beat on Cancer organization, which initiated the "I'll Raise You a Million Challenge" at the 2006 WSOP. The initiative was founded by Phil Gordon and Rafe Furst, and the goal was to raise $1 million before the start of the 2007 WSOP. Thanks to the help of many poker players, that goal was reached in April, two months ahead of schedule. Poker players were asked to donate 1 percent of their tournament winnings to the charity, and the response was overwhelming. Members of the United States Congress got involved, as well, by raising almost $250,000 at the Congressional Poker Night event that was sponsored by Harrah's. The money raised by Bad Beat on Cancer is donated to the Cancer Research and Prevention Foundation.

The spirit of giving was highlighted once again at the conclusion of the WSOP when Jerry Yang professed that he would donate 10 percent of his $8.25 million prize to the Make-A-Wish Foundation, Feed the Children, and the Ronald McDonald House. He also has professed that he would like to do some charity work back in his home country of Laos. This follows in the footsteps of other players with roots in Southeast Asia. Men "The Master" Nguyen has been active in charity work back in his homeland of Vietnam, where he has helped build a Buddhist temple and two schools. John Phan and Liz Lieu frequently make trips to Vietnam to do charity work, and on a recent journey they brought 20 tons of rice to help feed starving children. "We have been doing what we can for charities for some time now, and the kind of self-fulfillment we get from helping others is not seen by our eyes, it is felt within our hearts and souls," said Lieu.

The charity efforts have continued throughout the summer, and many more events are scheduled to take place moving forward. Just this August, the New School Versus Old School charity poker tournament featured poker players alongside current and past National Basketball Association stars to raise money for Operation Smile and the American Cancer Society. The National Celebrity Poker Championships hosted the JCC Celebrity Poker Shootout on Aug. 12, and raised more than $89,000 for the Jewish Community Center of Southern Nevada. The NCPC has professional players David Benyamine, Erica Schoenberg, and Eli Elezra on its advisory board, and many people in the poker community help out at its charity events. Matt Savage donates his time as senior tournament director. Even as this article went to press, many charity events were taking place during the preliminary days of the World Poker Tour Legends of Poker tournament. A portion of the prize pool of the $970 buy-in Mariani/Buss no-limit hold'em tournament will be donated to the Lakers Youth Foundation. On Aug. 18, the WPT Ladies Night at the Bike teamed with Susan G. Komen for the Cure and to raise money and awareness for breast cancer research.

The NCPC will host an event at Hollywood Park Casino on Sunday, Sept. 30, to benefit the California State Firefighters' Association. The tournament will feature a $450 buy-in with rebuys, and the first-place prize will be a $10,000 seat in the 2008 WSOP main event. An additional event has been scheduled by the NCPC for the spring of 2008 to benefit the Injured Police Officers Fund of Nevada.

Other big events during this past year were Jennifer Harman's charity tournament that raised more than $100,000 for the Nevada Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. It was held in April at Caesars Palace on the eve of the WPT Championship, and was a huge success. During the NBA All-Star Weekend in February, Trent Tucker's Hoopology charity poker event took place at the Hard Rock Casino. That event raised more than $1 million for the Trent Tucker Youth Program, which helps better the lives of inner-city youth by developing character and leadership, as well as providing career and educational opportunities.

No matter what the cause, or who is involved, the poker community, and the community at large, has been able to harness the game of poker to make the world a better place. The contributions of everyone involved are too numerous to list here, but the fact that so many players are striving to make the world a better place will hopefully inspire others who read about their good deeds to follow suit. You don't have to be a big-name poker professional, celebrity, or athlete to make a difference; you need only the will to give your time and money to others. If you think you want to make a difference, the websites of the charities mentioned in this article are listed below, and they will provide you with further information on how to help. There are also hundreds of charity events taking place at the local level around the country. You can even organize your own charity event to benefit a worthy cause if you are so inclined. Playing in charity poker tournaments is a fun way to help others, and a little altruism never hurt anyone.

Kristy Arnett contributed to this report.