Phil “philbort” Gruissem is one of the most renowned and successful German high-stakes poker players in the world.
His $10 million in live tournament cashes attest to that.
Over the last few months, however, he's been seen less at the poker tables as his main focus has shifted towards the charity, Raising for Effective Giving (REG), he co-founded with multiple partners including fellow poker players Igor Kurganov and Liv Boeree.
For the 2015 WSOPE Gruissem did come to Berlin but hasn't played any of the tournaments. He's in town primarily to promote REG and to convince other poker players to donate a percentage of their winnings.
On the weekend REG announced a cooperation with the German Poker Sports Association and Gruissem gave some insight in a press conference at the WSOPE on why it’s important to donate not only with heart but also with reason.
How to Donate to Charity Properly
“People are fish when it comes to donating money," Gruissem explained. “People have misconceptions which donations help more and which help less and we want to educate them about the best way to donate money.”
One big problem with donations, Gruissem says, is they don’t come in steadily
“After the earthquake in Nepal [in April 2015] people were quick to donate millions of dollars to help, which is great. But all over the world people are starving daily and a comparatively small donation could help here.
"But most are not aware of that.”
Gruissem also emphasized just how much can be done with very little money.
“You can de-worm children for 50 cents," he remarked as he explained that the Deworm the World Initiative does exactly that – performs school wide de-wormings in African countries which cost less than $0.50 per child per year.
Makes Sure Donations Have Highest Impact
Gruissem made it clear just how important rational deliberation is when considering which charities to donate to.
“There’s an expected value to each donation and you can calculate how many lives can be saved or improved by each charity per donation.
"Many people have their heart in the right place but lack the rationality to donate most effectively. As a poker player I always want to maximize expected values and I want donate in the best way possible.
"REG does exactly that – it makes sure your donations have the highest impact.”
The team behind REG also does its own research regarding charities but mostly relies on GiveWell.org, a non-profit organization that evaluates and rates charities.
“When donating to REG you can either chose which charity the money should go to or you let us be your donation fund manager,” Gruissem explained.
Poker players can pledge to give x percent of their yearly gross poker winnings where x is a number between two and 10. The most famous REG donator so far is WSOP Main Event winner Martin Jacobson, who donated $250,000 last year.
Adriano Mannino, Co-Founder and Chairman of REG, emphasized that the organization is not aiming to generate any profits. Since starting in 2014 REG has raised $750,000 with expenditures of just $50,000.
Micro Transactions Keep Support Flowing
Currently REG still relies quite heavily on big donators like Jacobson to make an impact but Mannino and Gruissem both spoke of their desire to expand in other areas as well. Trading, Gaming and Daily Fantasy Sports are first on the list.
But in the field of poker there’s still much that can be done to raise more money for good causes. The Kings Casino in Rozvadov, for example, has a REG box where people can donate.
This box raised $16,000 in the 2nd quarter of this year and similar donation boxes are going to be implemented in other casinos as well.
In Germany REG announced a partnership with the German Poker Sports Association which in turn brings the charity to all poker clubs and to thousands of amateur poker players.
REG also gained a famous supporter in Jason Somerville, who pledged to donate a percentage of his real money online poker and ad revenue from his popular Run It Up live stream. He featured the charity continuously on his Twitch stream last season.
Mannino commented how important small donations are for charities.
“Small donations from micro transactions come much more steadily and it’s easier to calculate with those numbers, so we're going to focus more on those in the future.”