Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2010 | 10:29 a.m.
Celebrities are generous when it comes time to combine a little playtime with charity fundraising, and they turned out in full force to play the PokerStars.net tournament in The Venetian’s Poker Room to raise funds and awareness for our Three Square food bank. When the final play ended and the poker royalty and the stars had all been KO’d, T-Pain entertained the winner and also-rans with a performance at Tao in The Venetian.
Card-carrying celebrities Tony Hawk, Christian Slater, Brad Garrett, Jason Alexander, Joanna Krupa, Montel Williams, Donnie Wahlberg, Marlon Wayans and Slash were among the 39 players who competed in the $540 buy-in event. Nicolas Gonzalez and Shaun Sipos of The CW’s Melrose Place, A.J. Buckley of CSI: N.Y. and UFC fighter Tito Ortiz also took part to raise money.
An especially friendly Christian proved a real fan favorite and kept jumping up from the poker tables to take photos with fans lining the aisles. A bounty was put on poker pro Daniel Negreanu, and the prize -- a signed guitar by Slash -- went to Donnie, who said he was going to give the guitar to his son.
Zak “Zakooza” Alameddine from New York won the event and a ticket into next Year’s PokerStars.net Caribbean Adventure in the Bahamas. He beat top poker pros Daniel, Phil Hellmuth, reigning WSOP champion Joe Cada, Gavin Griffin, Dennis Phillips, Chris Moneymaker and Vanessa Rousso.
Baseball legend Orel Hershiser placed second, winning a seat in the NAPT Mohegan Sun event in April. John Beveridge of Henderson finished third and won a seat into the $5,000 PokerStars.net North American Poker Tour Venetian Main Event with more than 800 players.
At T-Pain’s show, Christian snacked on chicken satay and chatted with Marlon while taking even more photos with guests. Phil relaxed in the VIP area with Brad enjoying cocktails. Joanna mingled with Tony, then turned her attention to T-Pain and danced to the music. Nicolas and Shaun said they’d had so much fun that they were coming back for their own weekend visit.
Coming up next is the 6th Annual National Heads-Up Poker Championship presented by GoDaddy.com. It’s flush with a who’s who of the poker world, including a dozen WSOP Main Event champions, top all-time money winners, online studs and Academy Award nominees. The tournament brings 64 poker players to the Caesars Palace Poker Tournament Room to compete in its distinctive head-to-head format for $1.5 million in prize money. The event will be taped for broadcast on NBC over six consecutive Sundays in April and May. The first-round opponents for the brackets will be chosen at random during the GoDaddy.com Draw Party at Pure in Caesars Palace on March 4. Play is March 5 to 7.
“We’ll of course be rooting for our Go Daddy girl Vanessa Rousso,” said Go Daddy CEO and founder Bob Parsons. “Vanessa is ready for another great run at this year’s 2010 heads-up tournament. She'll definitely bring her A game given the fierce competition.”
This year’s competitors include Andy Bloch, Doyle Brunson, Joe Cada, Johnny Chan, Don Cheadle, Annie Duke, Peter Eastgate, Antonio Esfandiari, Chris Ferguson, Jamie Gold, Barry Greenstein, Joe Hachem, Jennifer Harman, Phil Hellmuth, Orel Hershiser, Phil Ivey, Gabe Kaplan, Phil Laak, Howard Lederer, Chris Moneymaker, Darvin Moon, Daniel Negreanu, Scotty Nguyen, Huck Seed, Jennifer Tilly and Jerry Yang.
The first-place finisher receives $500,000, with second-place taking home $250,000. The viewing gallery at the Caesars Palace Poker Tournament Room is open to guests on a first-come, first-served basis. NBC will roll videotape all three days. Check your local listings for air times April 18 and 25 and May 2, 9, 16, and 23.
Follow Robin Leach on Twitter at Twitter.com/Robin_Leach.