All In for CP making a difference

Sam Simon

A skeptic might say that there are too many celebrity poker tournaments out there already.

But if knocking Ben Affleck out is what it takes to raise awareness about cerebral palsy, then so be it. Right on the river, baby. He totally deserves it for that Pearl Harbor flick. The inaugural All In for CP celebrity charity poker tournament featuring Ben and Casey Affleck runs Sunday Aug. 3 at 12 p.m. The $500 w/rebuys No-Limit event benefits the One Step Closer Foundation.

CEO and founder of the One Step Closer Foundation, Jacob Zalewski himself has CP. He said in an interview with that he wants to help other people with CP.

"I founded OSCF with the goal of helping, as much as possible, ease the lives of those who have been medically diagnosed with cerebral palsy," Zalewski explained. "Born with CP, I know how hard it can be to live with it, especially with limited resources and assistance."

With fundraising efforts such as this No-Limit Hold'em celebrity poker tournament, Zalewski wants to bring awareness and understanding of this disease to the community and provide financial assistance while working toward a cure. Pretty ambitious, but noble nonetheless.

Other celebrities expected to show at the Hollywood Park Casino for the All In for CP tournament include Jennifer Tilly, Dennis McCoy, Norm MacDonald, Mekhi Phifer, Colin Quinn, Montel Williams, Jamie Gold and Sam Simon.

Simon is one of the creators of the hit TV series The Simpsons. He said the reason so many people are showing support for this tournament stems directly from Zalewski's incredible personality. "Frankly Jacob is a very special young man who means a lot to a lot of people who hang around poker," said Simon. "[Although] this is sort of a celebrity poker tournament and there will be celebs and stuff, mostly people are just coming to show support for Jacob."

Simon met Zalewski through his good friend comedian Norm McDonald. "Norm introduced me; that's how I met him," said Simon. "I think Norm had gotten deep in a WSOP event and he was all in pre-flop with queens and a guy went runner-runner flush on him. "While Norm was still reeling, Jacob came up to him and started telling him his life story, saying that doctors gave him a 4% chance to live when he was born, etc. I told Norm that the odds of Jacob living when he was born were about the same as [those of] that guy hitting that flush!"

Simon's lived an extraordinary life, not only as a writer on hit shows such as The Simpsons and Taxi, but also as a boxing manager. He was actually named the 2004 World Boxing Manager of the Year, but he's now turning more of his attention to poker.

"I am taking it a lot more seriously," said Simon. "I would say that I am a recreational player. I guess I have had some success winning local tournaments and with cashes in the WSOP. But I really just play for fun.

"I haven't read the books and I haven't checked out the Web sites, but I am in the middle of doing that. It would be a lot more fun if I could start making final tables."

"I make a lot of mistakes, though," Simon continued. "You know when Daniel Negreanu or Erick Lindgren sits down at a table they probably say, 'I am going to play really solid and I am not going to make mistakes and I've got a really good shot.' For me, I sit down and think 'I've got to get really, really lucky.' I don't want to play post-flop poker with guys like Lindgren, Negreanu, Ferguson or any guy named OMGclayaiken."

Although he has a weekend ahead of him that not only includes the tournament but also the wedding of close friend and voice of professional boxing Michael Buffer and a roast of comedian Bob Saget, Simon claimed he's proud to help support his good friend.

"I've never heard Jacob complain [about his cerebral palsy]. He's a happy, great guy and is actually friends with some of the biggest names of Hollywood. It should be a really good tournament."

At the ripe old age of 41, Dennis McCoy is the granddaddy of BMX and one of the most respected competitors in the history of the sport. He's another of Zalewski's good friends. Despite the fact that he'll compete in the X Games vert contest the night before, McCoy said he's thrilled to be a part of the poker tournament.

"I met Jacob at the Ante Up for Africa tournament last year and we kind of hit it off. Since then, we've kept in touch. From the beginning he told me he wanted me to be involved in this so I've been kind of helping him raise interest on the action sports side of things."

Although he's never cashed in any major tournaments, McCoy said he's no stranger to cards and that his skills as a rider definitely help him out.

"I guess there really are certain similarities between [BMX vert] and poker. One, just the decision-making process. And then just dealing with pressure. If you get to a final table it's a lot of pressure and if you've competed at a high level in this type of sport, that comes into play."

But to McCoy it's not about winning the All In for CP tournament, it's about helping his friend raise awareness about CP.

"I remember one of the lines on one of Jacob's earliest pamphlets," said McCoy. "It said 'The biggest winner is never dealt a hand.' That says it all, really."

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