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Poker Community Opens Its Heart

Poker Industry Members Rally To Help Young Girl


From Phil Gordon to Phil Hellmuth Jr., some of today's poker superstars are doing what they can to give something back to the world. Evidence of this genuine sincerity comes from the poker community's involvement with a vibrant two-and-a-half year old Canadian girl, Peyton Novoa.

This adorable youngster experienced a terrible loss early in life: Her mother, Natasha, was diagnosed in December, 2005, with small cell ovarian cancer, a rare form of cancer. Unfortunately, despite three months of brave struggle through radiation and chemotherapy, Natasha passed away on a March night.

As if losing Natasha wasn't enough, Peyton's family used almost all of their economic resources to cover Natasha's treatment and to be by her side. Peyton's future looked as though it would be very difficult, especially because of the loss of her mother and all of the intangible love and life-lessons that can come only from a mother. But thanks to several generous groups of people, including a host of colorful characters from the poker world, Peyton's future is looking bright.

Poker bloggers were the first people from the poker community to lend a hand to Peyton's cause. Bob Nardi, whose online moniker is Bobby Bracelet, was the first to bring Peyton's troubles to light on his blog. Nardi originally met Natasha and Peyton through a friend. Peyton quickly took to Nardi and showed him the love and personality that have made everyone who has met her fall in love with her.

Upon hearing of Natasha's death, Nardi decided to use his poker blog to try to raise money for Peyton. Because of the closeness of the poker blogging community, word spread quickly about Peyton's loss.

Then a second group of poker supporters got involved. Jason Kirk, one of poker's leading tournament reporters, began championing Peyton's cause and brainstorming ways to get top professionals involved.

On a cool April night at the Playboy Mansion in Los Angeles, Kirk and several other poker bloggers gathered for a Playboy charity poker event. While hanging out at the legendary Hugh Hefner residence, Kirk introduced Nardi to Gavin Smith, leader of a third group of poker aficionados who have since gotten involved in Peyton's cause.

It wasn't long before Smith - soon-to-be the 2006 World Poker Tour Player of the Year - became the first professional poker player to get on board to raise money for this worthy cause

"I felt horrible for this little girl. Every single day we come to play, we hear some guy bitch about losing with kings against aces or how their nut-flush got run down by a full house. How someone got beat down by a runner. This little girl took so much worse of a beat than any of us have taken in poker. We are blessed individuals who have so much given to them. It's time to give a little back to someone who needs it," Smith said recently.

Smith isn't the only professional getting involved. Phil Ivey, John D'Agostino, and Mark Seif have donated signed jerseys for the silent auction. Phil Laak is donating a signed hoodie, while Daniel Negreanu and Scott Fischman are donating player packages filled with t-shirts, hoodies, and hats.

Industry leaders Card Player and Bellagio are making donations to the silent auction as well. Card Player is donating a prize package filled with a super-subscription to Card Player Magazine (200 issues), Card Player clothing, and several poker books and DVDs. The Bellagio is donating a package that includes two nights accommodation, limo rides to and from the airport, and two tickets to the show "O."

Among other silent auction items are signed photos, including a photo signed by the last three World Poker Tour Players of the Year, and Card Player covers signed by David Williamson, Carlos Mortenson, Antonio Esfandiari, and Daniel Negreanu. Smith and poker superstar Phil Hellmuth have also graciously donated $2,000 each to Peyton's cause.

But the biggest prize of the silent auction comes from Smith. He is graciously donating a $5,000 prize pool to a 10-person tournament tentatively scheduled for September 23, 2006, in Philadelphia. Smith will act as host for the tournament. There will be eight spots available to be bid on beginning with the initial auction on August 1, 2005.

For more information on the silent auction go to: