On occasion, reading the Twitter feed of British pro Adam Owen is like flicking through an airline magazine. One moment he’s in Madrid, the next in Mexico, then Vegas, London or Amsterdam. It’s sometimes for poker, and sometimes for sports. This year, for example, he followed his beloved Tottenham Hotspur to the final of the Champions League. The team lost but he says, “I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.”
It’s important, however, not to dismiss Owen as just another baller, devil-may-care, thoughtless globetrotter. Nothing on his travels has affected him more, he says, than visiting a migrant camp in Mexico City housing around 1,500 people making the arduous and perilous journey from Central America towards the United States.
The plight of these migrants has been in the headlines frequently this year, even if the actual human element has often been overlooked amid political posturing. The people Owen met had been travelling for more than three weeks, and still had two more before they might reach the border. Although his original visit to the camp was to bring food and supplies to a specific friend of a friend, named Junior, he quickly realised he needed to broaden his efforts.
“These people, these are the best conditions they’re going to have possibly on their journey to the border,” Owen says. “They’re just tucked in there, in the most basic accommodation…You can’t tell them not to go to the border. Imagine how bad things are back home for them for them to want to go out and do that.”
Inspired by the work of two other poker-playing friends — Nick Maimone and Kami Dawn, who take clothes and supplies to people enduring hardship in Honduras — Owen then did what any popular, well-connected poker player would do: he rallied his friends and contacts to the cause.
“Having seen it with my own eyes, I posted a bit about Junior on Twitter, and there was a great interest from the poker community. I decided to raise some money, distribute it direct with some supplies and food and stuff. It was great. We raised about $12,000, distributed just about half of that in the city and the rest to a charity, Sin Fronteras. They look to give families basic supplies on their journey.”
As has been well documented, even migrants who reach the border relatively unscathed have not exactly been welcomed with open arms–and Owen is forthright in his criticisms of the current policies from Washington.
“It’s a political issue more than it’s a human rights issue for a lot of people, and I think that’s pretty disgusting,” Owen says. “The conditions immigrants are facing at the borders at the moment, where they’re not getting basic human rights at all, and a child died actually in what is basically a concentration camp. No matter what side of the spectrum you fall on, kids dying in concentration camps is not something that should happen.”
He praised the efforts of David “Bakes” Baker, who has recently been protesting outside the offices of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and pointed to other people in poker who regularly give their time and money to charitable causes.
“There are some really good people in poker,” Owen says. “You won’t necessarily hear a lot about them, they go about their business. They don’t necessarily make headlines. But there are a lot of people in poker who put a lot of money into charity, doing direct things.”
At the time we spoke, Owen was still in the Main Event, having been chip leader from Day 1B and then cashing for the first time in this tournament. His run ended shortly before dinner on Day 4, with a bustout in 570th place and a $24,560 cash, but his efforts back in Mexico City are far from complete. He said that he’s planning on taking two suitcases of clothes back to Latin America after the World Series, and will, of course, accept any further donations.
“I am really proud and happy with my friends that they wanted to get involved, and thankful for them trusting me, and getting behind what we were doing,” he says.
WSOP photography by PokerPhotoArchive