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Tournament Trail Q and A -- Don Cheadle

Cheadle Talks About Tough Heads-Up Opponents and Ante Up for Africa


Don CheadleDon Cheadle has played at the NBC National Heads-Up Poker Championship for the past three years. Twice he has defeated a very tough opponent in the first round to advance. In 2007 he defeated Phil Ivey, and this year he defeated David "The Dragon" Pham. Cheadle brings a calm demeanor to the table that allows his poker play to do the talking for him. He is also involved with the Ante Up for Africa charity poker tournament, which he co-hosts with Annie Duke each year at the World Series of Poker.

Card Player caught up with Cheadle at Caesars Palace, and he talked about the charity work that Ante Up for Africa is accomplishing and finding the rhtyhm of his poker game.

Ryan Lucchesi:
You have beaten two really tough opponents in two out of three years here at the NBC Heads-Up Championship. Do you prefer to face the best players in order to test your poker game?

Don Cheadle: For my kind of game, they’re all going to be tough, so it doesn’t matter; I will take the toughest guys, because it’s just like when you run against a better runner as a sprinter, you get faster. I think they pull a better game out of me than if I played someone at my level. Also, I want the bigger challenge, so it’s more fun.

How much is your understanding of human emotions and physical tells as an actor able to negate some of the poker advantage your opponents might have?

You know, I don’t really put a lot into that; I mean, I guess you can get a general feel for how people play. I think it’s a rhythm thing; for me it is, anyway. It’s finding the rhythm of the particular match and seeing where you feel that person is comfortable and where they are conversely uncomfortable and how you take advantage of that. As far as facial ticks and tells, and swallowing and all of that ... although in the first match I was all in on a hand and I looked down at my shirt and my heart was pumping, and I had to sit up so I could cover my heartbeat, yeah (laughs).

Can you tell me a little bit about where the money is being spent that is raised by the Ante Up for Africa charity poker tournament that takes place each year before the WSOP main event?

DC: We are giving to a lot of the NGOs that are on the ground in Sudan, the international rescue committee, and groups like that, and also a lot of the money that we raise is going toward the advocacy part of it. We’re just trying to change policy and deal with things on the hill, so that we can get some kind of lasting change. That’s what the groups like the do.

RL: Is there a way that poker players and fans can contribute to that cause throughout the year?

DC: Absolutely. If they go to, they can look and see the different ways they can give, and they can jump to different sites where they can learn about what is happening there and how they can get involved.