Darfur wins at Ante Up for Africa tournament

Charles Barkley
Charles Barkley works the red carpet prior to the tournament.

Dan Shak and Brandon Moran didn't stroll the red carpet prior to the celebrity-packed Ante Up for Africa charity poker tournament at the Rio Thursday afternoon.

But the duo outshone the all stars who paid the $5,000 buy-in to raise money for the humanitarian crisis in Darfur when they made it to heads-up play in the tournament and agreed to split the pot and donate 100% of their winnings to charity.

It was a fitting end to an event that features plenty of marquee names and quick (possibly strategic) busts.

Within minutes, poker pro Daniel Negreanu busted out of the event. As he made his way to the rail, Annie Duke began to shout, "Re-buy! Re-buy!" A reluctant-looking Kid Poker headed back to ante up for Africa a second time, only to be informed by the tournament director that the Nevada Gaming Commission would not allow players to buy back into the event.

Moments later Negreanu was followed by Matt Damon, who ducked out a back door quickly shortly after the tournament began.

Other celebrities - Ben Affleck, Ray Ramano, Charles Barkley, Martin Sheen, Willy Garson, Shannon Elizabeth, Montel Williams, Adam Sandler, Hank Azaria and Kevin James among them - lasted longer on the felt.

Nonetheless, it wasn't a film star or a sports legend who took down the event: Shak and Moran were civilian members of the 167-person playing field.

That made the win and subsequent donation all the more impressive to behold in the early hours of Friday morning. Shak rose from his seat at the table after the field was narrowed to heads-up play to announce he would donate all his winnings from the tournament to the Ante Up for Africa designated charities - the Enough Project and the International Rescue Committee.

When Moran followed suit, the two players agreed to end the tournament and jointly donate the $386,738 in prize money to the Darfur charities.

The move echoed sentiments expressed by poker pro and event host Annie Duke earlier that day. In a press conference Thursday afternoon, Duke said professional poker players are mistakenly seen as selfish people who only care about money.

"We've proven in a very loud voice that's not true," she said. "The outpouring of support from the poker community for this was just overwhelmingly wonderful."

Duke co-hosted the event with Hollywood actor and poker enthusiast Don Cheadle. The crisis in Darfur has been an issue close to Cheadle's heart since visiting the country and witnessing the devastation.

He's been working on raising awareness and money for the cause for a couple of years now - his charity having collected more than $8 million for the humanitarian crisis - but Cheadle said he is looking forward to the day when he can host a poker tournament for another issue because Darfur no longer needs aid.

"This is just an issue we've picked right now," he said. "Hopefully we won't be here in five years talking about Darfur."

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