How Arizona’s sports teams could organize poker games for charities


At last year’s Excellence in Sports Performance Yearly (ESPY) Awards weekend, former Arizona State University defensive back Omar Bolden was among many NFL players to join the in-event poker mini-tournament.  Proceeds of the games went to various charities; most prominently the Mama Sarah Obama Foundation, whose efforts seek to aid orphans and poverty-stricken families.

Poker games have always proven to be great fundraisers; and while the NFL used to be very strict when it came to banning their players from participating in card game tournaments (even those geared towards worthwhile causes), they have since loosened their stranglehold and allowed their players to take part in charity poker tournaments.  This has led to events like the Tyler’s Team Charity Poker Classic of the Tyler McLellan Foundation to see a healthy dose of participation from the premier football league’s players.  And then there are the more personal gatherings which nevertheless have the same level of commitment to their causes, such as former Steelers quarterback Charlie Batch’s annual In the Pocket event, which also features pool and table tennis matches.  The multi-sport event’s proceeds go to Batch’s self-started Best of the Best Foundation, which aims to provide literacy programs to old and young alike.

These are just but samplings of the many examples which prove that gaming and charities can go hand-in-hand.  It’s something that the state of New Jersey has been taking very seriously for the past few months by fully embracing the next frontier of gaming: online game rooms.  In conjunction with the Boardwalk’s governing bodies, casinos have been promoting online gaming in full force, since the local gaming industry sees it not just as an expansion of their current venture, but as a new line of business altogether.  The state’s NHL team, the NJ Devils, has even forged a three-way deal with UK gaming site PartyPoker and neighboring city Philly’s ‘76ers NBA squad; a first-of-its-kind multi-sport partnership whose goals are, among other things, promoting controlled gambling and increasing its demographics through the audiences of the other sports franchises.

New Jersey’s stance is certainly something that Arizona could make good use of. The state’s residents aren’t exactly averse to poker.  ASU student Jake Balsiger even took home the 3rd place win at 2012’s World Series of Poker tournament.  Furthermore, the card game is now officially considered by the International Mind Sports Association as a legitimate sporting activity, alongside chess, bridge, and others.

Now that the NFL has become more lenient with the card game, perhaps a joint venture with the Cardinals or even the Sun Devils could be organized to help raise money for various benefits.  With poker’s new status as a mind sport, it might only take a little push for the state to finally allow the game to be played publicly without impediments.

This article has been provided by Frank Andrews, a self confessed football fan and a local poker enthusiast based in Allentown, NJ.

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