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Harman's Charity Poker Tourney Helps Kidney Foundation

Top Pro Has Had Two Kidney Transplants


Jennifer HarmanAt the age of 17, Jennifer Harman was told that she had three months to live.

She had just watched her mother die from kidney disease, and now her own kidneys were failing.

“When I was young, I always thought that I was indestructible,” said Harman. “I was in denial. I didn’t believe that it was going to happen.”

But her body wasn’t responding well to dialysis, the treatment used to help replace the functions of the kidney. While she was supposed to go into the hospital for dialysis three times a week for three hours at a time after her kidney failure, she could only manage to go in twice a week for two hours at a time because her blood pressure would bottom out during treatment.

“They did the bare minimum of dialysis on me to keep me alive,” said Harman.

Just when the situation seemed uncompromising, Harman received a kidney transplant and made a full recovery. Despite a second kidney transplant in 2004, she has gone on to become one of the greatest poker players in the world, a regular at the highest stakes cash game in Las Vegas.

Now, she is using poker to help raise money for the National Kidney Foundation.

On March 11, the Grand Sierra Resort and Casino in Reno will host the Jennifer Harman Charity Poker Tournament.

At least 90 percent of the money raised will go specifically toward “free-of-charge” patient programs, camps for children on dialysis, patient and family assistance, and research, as requested by Harman.

“We already have over 200 sign-ups,” said Lisa Wheeler, the president of Greasie Wheels, a company that is helping to coordinate the event. “We’ve got a grassroots campaign going on right now.”

The no-limit hold’em tournament will cost $230 to enter, with $50 rebuys during the first three 20-minute levels and a one-time add-on. A number of poker pros, including Howard Lederer, Tiffany Michelle, Maria Ho, Andy Bloch, and Marco Traniello, have all committed to attend. The event will start at noon and is open to the public, but seats are limited.

The winner of the event will receive a $5,000 World Poker Challenge championship entry, while second and third place will receive $3,000 WPC entries. All of the top three finishers will receive Curtis and Co. sports watches.

In an effort to bolster attendance, Full Tilt has put together a team promotion for the event. While it is an individual competition, it is encouraging casinos to send teams of 10 players. The best overall team performance will earn a visit to the casino by a Full Tilt pro at a later date.

“I hope it’s successful,” said Harman. “I’d like it to be an annual event.”

For more information, or to register for the event, go to the website created for the Jennifer Harman Charity Poker Tournament.