In this post, professional poker player Gavin Griffin and the nonprofit Realities for Children discuss how poker tournaments can be a platform for philanthropy. Gavin Griffin is a professional poker player and philanthropist who dies his hair pink for breast cancer awareness at professional poker tournaments. Realities for Children runs a long standing poker tournament to raise funds for children affected by abuse.
E-Advocate Network: By dying your hair pink for the events, did you expect the cancer awareness it would create?
Gavin: I expected to create some awareness, but winning the tournament and everything that followed it was a huge boost. I was on the cover of CardPlayer, the biggest magazine in poker, and a couple of other magazines as well. Every interview I’ve done since then has had some mention of the Avon Foundation or breast cancer awareness. It’s been really great to be a part of raising awareness for breast cancer.
E-Advocate Network: Why is breast cancer awareness close to your heart?
Gavin: In 2004, my girlfriend, Kristen, was diagnosed with breast cancer. She survived and is living a happy and healthy life now. If she hadn’t caught her cancer so early, I never would have met her and my life would be much different.
E-Advocate Network: “How do you plan on creating cancer awareness in the future?”
Gavin: In the future, both Kristen and I plan to continue being advocates for breast cancer awareness by donating to charity, speaking about it in interviews, and perhaps in the future by hosting charity events.
Gavin died his hair pink while he won the Triple Crown, which is a first place win at the World Series of Poker, the World Poker Tour, and the European Poker Tour. These are the three largest poker tournaments in the world. The “hole-cam” allows viewers to see hidden cards live on television, and helps to bring a large television audience to these events. By having pink hair on the cover of Cardplayer he also spread breast cancer awareness to an additional 100,000 readers.
Realities for Children is a nonprofit in Colorado which holds poker tournaments as its primary fundraiser for its Triumph Award Scholarship Program.
Realities for Children to Gavin: Poker and charities seem to go together. Do you view the poker community as charitable and where do you see the future between the two going?
Gavin Griffin: I don’t think that as a whole the poker community is charitable. Mostly this is because of the nature of our profession. I think that is presented with a cause directly they will give money to it, but most won’t give time or effort to promote a charity. There are obvious exceptions such as Jennifer Harman, Daniel Negreanu, and Phil Gordon. I would like to see more poker players take up causes and get involved with charities. I’m not sure how we will accomplish this, but I look forward to a time when more poker players are aware of the problems outside their own world and do something about them.
E-Advocate Network to Realities for Children: With this in mind, what was the most successful aspect of your event to help abused and neglected children?
Realities for children: It was fun. The event was not for professional players. It let us reach out to a new donor base that we would not know otherwise. We met new supporters because of the social nature of the event, and these relationships could be cultivated from there.
E-Advocate Network to Realities for Children: How did you first create your event?
Realities for Children: The time spent to create a charity poker tournament event is important. Historically, a non-profit could create a poker tournament and take a percentage of the profits. The challenge now is to create an event that is not considered illegal gambling. To be considered a gambling event you must remove one of three aspects: chance, reward, or cost. We removed cost by making the donation optional. We had to work with the gaming department and the sheriff’s office to ensure that the event was correct. Now we have a format.
E-Advocate Network to Realities for Children: Did the format effect the success of the event?
Realities for Children: No. What we did to ensure the event’s success was to create a high end event at the Hyatt hotel with a higher entry donation. We brought in sponsors for the event for added donations. Another aspect that we added was a “blind-a-thon” in which entrants would get pledges for each blind level that they get to.
E-Advocate Network to Realities for Children: What cause does your poker tournament support?
Realities for children: The poker tournament helps abused and neglected children as they grow into adulthood. The event was created to fund our Triumph Award Scholarship for young adults. It is the crown jewel of our program and it is designed to break the cycle of abuse. Children in our program reach personal goals and then receive collegiate support that acknowledges their accomplishments. They also receive a mentor who acts as a role model through young adulthood. The children who we work with are amazing youth who deserve support into their adulthood.