The generosity of the poker-playing public never ceases to amaze me. I
guess it could be said that because of the uncertainty of poker, those
who play might have less regard for money than regular folks. Not being
a sociologist or a psychologist, I don't know what the reasons are for this
generosity, but I do know that after 35 years as a poker player in the
clubs, I have seen many collections taken at the tables. Collections
generally have been taken for someone in the poker-playing community
who is in need, either because of sickness or an accident, or for the
surviving wife of a poker player.
I was told about a collection that occurred recently at Commerce Casino
in Commerce, California. The story was told to me by Jerry Stensrud, one
of the most respected people in the poker industry and one of the top
guns at the Commerce.
It seems that Stensrud was playing in one of the higher-limit games one
day when a seat came open. The player who was called for the seat was
a top California player named Mason Richburg.
Shortly after entering the game, Richburg said that he heard on the radio
that a young Hispanic man, working as a security guard, had been killed
in a robbery. The young man had been working two jobs in order to
support his wife and seven children. Richburg went on to say that Bank
of America was taking donations for the young man's family. It seems
that with a wife and all those children to support, despite working two
jobs, the young man had not left enough money for burial costs, let alone
food and shelter for his survivors.
Five minutes after Richburg told the story, he was holding $1,600 that
was collected from the table -- nine players, five minutes, $1,600. The
thought that occurred to me after hearing the story was that nobody
would ever thank those nine guys who gave that $1,600. It was a truly
generous and compassionate deed. So, I will take it upon myself to do it.
"Thank you, guys, very much, you're good men."
On the lighter side of the same subject, Stensrud and I were talking
about other collections that we have seen or been part of in the poker
Here is one of the more humorous ones that Stensrud related to me. It
seems that one day he had attended a fundraising event for battered
women. After the event, he headed for his favorite place, the poker
table. The only problem was that he still had on his suit and tie.
Naturally, he got kidded with remarks like, "Why the suit?" and "You
really didn't have to dress up to play with us, Jerry." Eventually, he got
around to telling them why he had the suit and tie on.
Once again, the generosity of the players surfaced. They all started
throwing him $25 chips. It ended up being a sizable collection. Stensrud
cashed the chips in and took the donation to the shelter.
The lady receiving the donation thanked him, but added that next time
he should get checks. Stensrud said, "No, ma'am, you don't understand
-- these guys don't write checks!"
One of the most rewarding experiences that I have had in the poker
world was discovering the generosity of the players. I discovered it three
years ago when Susie Isaacs, Ray Ragan, and I started the Poker
Players Charity Association. It started at the Queens Classic at the Four
Queens, where there was an announcement made that anyone who
wanted to do so could donate to the charity of his or her choice. A rather
tall young man came over and laid down 10 $100 bills. What a start he
gave us! Thanks again, Mr. Hellmuth. In the eight months that we were
in existence, 95 poker players contributed more than $26,000, which was
distributed to 15 charities.
It makes me feel good when I hear and see how poker players respond
to people in genuine need. I know that it's not always easy to distinguish
who really is in need and who isn't, but my guess is that most poker
players develop a pretty good sense for knowing the difference.
For what it's worth ...
Passing the Hat
By Vince Burgio