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Stars ante up for Africa again at 2009 WSOP
Even by World Series of Poker standards, the scene surrounding the 2009 Ante Up For Africa event was a spectacle.
Media outlets from all over the world jam packed the red carpet as the Rio Convention Center became the center of the universe for both the celebrity world and the poker world Thursday.
Lots of big names flew into town for the event, which is in its third year on the WSOP schedule.
Actor Don Cheadle and Annie Duke are officially hosting and it appears the 2009 Ante Up For Africa is the biggest one yet.
"When we first conceived of the charity, we were thinking we'd just do a little event and raise like 20 or 30 thousand dollars," said Duke. "But (WSOP Commissioner) Jeffrey Pollack had a vision for this event that we didn't have and he made us part of the World Series of Poker.
"It's an amazing platform where not only are poker players involved here, at one place at one time, but media is also focused on poker this time of year right before the Main Event. It's so exciting to see everyone come out."
138 players from the worlds of poker, entertainment and sports descended on the Amazon Room for the $5k event, won by John Hennigan in 2008.
Hennigan was back in the field to try to defend his title, along with celebrities including Ben Affleck, Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith and Mike Tyson.
"I don't really think I'm going to do well but it's for a good cause," said Tyson. "It's nice to be able to participate, play poker and raise awareness."
"Everybody who's an amateur poker player thinks it's exciting to play with professional poker players, but as a professional poker player it's exciting to sit down and play with celebrities," Michelle said.
With the $5k buy in, the tournament netted a prize pool of $670,680, with a first-place prize of $177,730.
However, Hennigan donated his entire winner's share to charity last year and it's expected that today's winner will do the same.
Other celebrities in the field included Sarah Silverman, Jennifer Tilly, Brad Garrett, Nelly and a poker icon ever since his role in Rounders, Matt Damon.
"More people that come up to me on the street, if they say 'I love you in....', and it's a guy between the age of 18 and 40, I can guarantee you he's going to say Rounders."
With such an eclectic field, there's no telling who might come away with the title.
"All these bracelet winners, all these final table winners," said Nelly. "I don't think I'm going to think about it, because if I think about it I'm going to make the wrong moves.
"Their mind control at this point is much superior to mine."
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