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Poker Tournament Trail Q and A -- Linda Johnson

Johnson Talks about National Poker Month and Poker Gives, the Charity she founded with Fellow Poker Professionals

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Linda JohnsonNational Poker Month is currently taking place in support of Poker Gives, a 501 © (3) non-profit charity organization founded by poker industry leaders Mike Sexton, Linda Johnson, Jan Fisher, and Lisa Tenner. You have a chance to join the poker community and give back to worthwhile charity organizations during September.

The goal is to raise funds through poker events and the funds will be distributed to the four charities supported by Poker Gives: Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund, Paralyzed Veterans of America, Special Olympics Nevada, and Step by Step Foundation. The next tournament on the National Poker Month schedule will take place at the Bicycle Casino in Los Angeles on Saturday at 1 p.m. In fact; there are half a dozen National Poker Month charity tournaments that you can take part in this weekend. A list of card rooms participating in National Poker Month can be found at http://pokergives.org/nationalpokermonth.shtml.

Half of the proceeds from these events will go to Poker Gives and half will go into the prize pool. In addition to winning cash, the names of all winners and all participating card rooms and card room managers will be entered into separate drawings to be held on October 4, 2010. Bonus prizes that event winners will be eligible to receive include seats to the World Poker Tour Invitational, a WPT Boot Camp session, a poker cruise to Mexico with Card Player Cruises, and poker lessons with Mike Sexton and Linda Johnson.

Card Player caught up with one of the founding members of the charity and former Card Player Publisher, Linda Johnson to talk about the charity and National Poker Month. This is a big month for Johnson; she was recently nominated as one of ten finalists for the Class of 2010 Poker Hall of Fame inductions. Johnson was one of the four original inductees in the Women in Poker Hall of Fame in 2008. You can read more about Johnson’s resume for the HOF in an upcoming issue of Card Player Magazine. Read on below for the interview.

Ryan Lucchesi: There are four charities associated with Poker Gives. How did you decide what charities would receive the donations?

Linda Johnson: We tried to pick charities that no one would be opposed to in any way. One’s that were mainstream and everyone was in favor of. There are four founders so each of us selected a charity, nothing controversial, nothing religious, to maximize attendance.

RL: What was your personal choice of charity?

LJ: Paralyzed Veterans of America.

RL: What are some of the different ways that poker players of all levels can participate in National Poker Month?

LJ: If they go to pokergives.org there is a listing of all of the card rooms that are hosting events. There will also be an online charity event on Full Tilt on September 19. Some players have also decided to donate 1 percent of their winnings to the charity; we have a PayPal account on the site. They can also donate straight to the charity, and we are a 501 © (3) federally recognized non profit.

RL: How important is it to provide players an outlet to give year round? Not just when the bright lights are on the poker community during the summer?

LJ: I think it is really important. One of the things we discussed when we founded this organization was that a lot of players want to give but they don’t know how to give. And they don’t want to go into researching different charities and how to get their money there. So we kind of made it easy so that if they want to give all they have to do is send a check, donate through PayPal, or play in one of the tournaments. It’s very easy for them.

One thing that is nice about Poker Gives is that 100 percent of what we take in will be sent to the charities. The four founders pay the expenses. We have somebody who works for us on staff and we pay for that separately out-of-our pocket so that the money that is raised gets back to the charities.

RL: In addition to donating your money the four founders have donated their time in the form of tournament prizes. What are some of those specialty prizes?

LJ: In our silent auction we will donate personal items like coaching sessions or dinner with Mike Sexton. We also try to attend all of the Los Angeles and Las Vegas tournaments.

RL: Does Poker Gives offer poker fans and amateur players just as equal of a chance to donate as the professionals?

LJ: It is so important to give back and I think most poker players are very fortunate. If we can afford to play in World Series events and even for leisure in local events then we can certainly afford to give something to charity. I never understand people that have a lot of money and don’t want to give back.

I think that giving makes you feel good. It’s almost selfish when you give something because the joy that it bring you is very rewarding.

RL: What has the atmosphere been like at the Poker Gives events?

LJ: It’s been fun. People know that they’re there for the charity. The buy-ins we have made very small. We asked for them not to go over $200 and we recommended $50. A lot of them are $50 like the one at the Bike this weekend. That way everybody can participate. I love doing all of these charity events because a lot of them are not affordable for the average player. One hundred dollars I think is affordable.

That was our goal, we weren’t trying to have a huge media or celebrity presence, and we definitely wanted to have events that the average Joe can play in because they want to contribute.