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Charity Tournament Q and A -- Brad Garrett

The Hollywood Comedian and Actor Talks About His Upcoming Charity Event at Commerce Casino on May 30

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Brad Garrett made a big splash at the 2009 NBC National Heads-Up Poker Championship, defeating Annie Duke in the first round while entertaining the audience with his table-talk and antics. Garrett has also played at the World Series of Poker, where he participated in the main event and the Ante Up for Africa charity poker tournament. Garrett is now going host his very own charity poker event, the All-In For All Good celebrity poker tournament at Commerce Casino on Saturday, May 30. The $350 buy-in no-limit hold’em tournament will benefit the Maximum Hope Foundation and the Dream Foundation.

The Maximum Hope Foundation is a non-profit organization designed to benefit families dealing with the financial hurdles that accompany caring for a terminally ill child. The Dream Foundation is the first and only nationally recognized wish-granting organization dedicated to fulfilling the wishes of adults with life-limiting illnesses.

The charity event will also feature a silent and live auction, and tournament prizes include $10,000 in final-table prize money, along with electronic prizes, and travel prizes provided by event sponsor American Airlines. Players can register online at www.maximumhopefoundation.org to play in the event, and they can also register on-site at Commerce Casino starting at noon on May 30. The charity tournament will begin at 1 p.m. Celebrities who will be attending the event include Garrett, Ray Romano, Jason Alexander, Cheryl Hines, Michael Chiklis, Hank Azaria, Mimi Rogers, Kevin Nealon, Joely Fisher, and many others. For those who still want to support the cause, but prefer not to play, they can attend the tournament as a spectator for $75.

Card Player caught up with Garrett for a phone interview about the All-In For All Good charity event. The Hollywood actor, who currently stars on ’Til Death, and is best known for his role on Everybody Loves Raymond, talked about using his love of poker to help others.

Ryan Lucchesi: First thing’s first, tell me about your upcoming charity tournament. What can you tell players and fans out there who would be interested in playing?

Brad Garrett: Four years ago I started my own charity, it’s called the Maximum Hope Foundation…It’s been very successful, it’s a grassroots, small foundation, all non-profit. We have one employee, and everyone else is on a volunteer basis. We help many families during the year that are just trying to meet daily expenses, from rent to food to bills to gas. A lot of these families that have to contribute to their health insurance costs when they are terminally ill, even at 20 percent, they are literally wiped out. In this economy, with people not working, we have just become overwhelmed with people who need help. So, we’ve teamed up with the Dream Foundation, which is another foundation that I’ve worked with for years that is almost like a sister foundation of ours as far as the fact that they help families that have terminally ill members that are 18 years and older. We decided to team up in an effort to raise as much money as we can for these families.

RL: What direct help will the families benefiting from your foundation receive from the charity donations the tournament will raise?

BG: There are so many people who need basic things right now, so we help them out with gas money to get to the hospital and the money they need for rent. One family didn’t have a washer and dryer with four kids. These are things that are truly priorities for these people. What is really great about it is that whatever is donated that week goes directly to help these families with gas cards, or electrical bills, or clothing. You can see what your contribution does immediately, and we let people know where they’re helping. It makes it very personal, and it makes it immediate, as these kinds of needs are.

RL: Tell me a little bit about the atmosphere you expect for the night of charity event?

BG: It’s going to be around-the-clock food and drinks, fun, and entertainment. There are going to be live bands, and a jazz trio. It’s going to be fun; it’s going to be loose. I mean, anybody can walk away with that $7,500 for first place. Not only that, but how many times are you going to have an opportunity to play next to Ray Romano and Michael Chiklis, or Kevin Nealon and Hank Azaria? We’re looking at a field of 200 people; we’re getting some great response, and I think it’s going to be a fun day. There’s going to be music, it’s going to be crazy, I know Ray’s going to be talking at me and dissing on me, and we just have a lot of fun. It’s a lot like our home game.

We’re all serious and average players who just like to have a good time…I mean, $350 for registration, how may times do you go to a casino and blow that in an hour? It goes to a great cause, and it’s totally tax-deductible…Fox, the network that my show is on has been great, Sony pictures and television has been incredibly generous. It’s cool, because at the end of the day, this is what it’s all about.

RL: How has your prior involvement in poker with the WSOP and NBC Heads-Up event opened up opportunities for you to play poker and help charities at the same time?

BG: Ray and I have a monthly home game that we have played in for years, and we’ve done golf tournaments before, but we wanted do something that we all love for charity, so we decided to do a poker tournament. Commerce Casino has been incredibly helpful in helping us get this together. I would love to do whatever I can for charity via poker. I’m like one of those guys that throws around the football on Sunday and dreams of playing, except for me it’s poker. I’ve always loved it, I’ve played for 20 years and I’m still pretty darn bad. The bottom line is I just love the game, and it’s one of the few things I can do that makes me forget the other things I’m dealing with. It’s my kind of sport, I don’t have to sweat and I can have a hot dog, so any sport like that is a fun thing.

Like stand up, the reason I love poker is because every night is different. I have no right beating Annie Duke, but if you get the right cards, even a neophyte like me can have some fun. I just love the game; this is something I would like to do as far as helping charities and it is something I would like to get better at. My heroes are the Gus Hansens, the Hellmuths, and the Annie Dukes, these people who I think are wonderful at what they do, and I just love watching it. It’s my sport of choice.