As you arrive in Monaco, driven in a gravity-defying manner along winding mountain roads that have the comfort of a wall of rock on one side but a terrifying 1,000-metre drop on the other, you can almost smell the money. This place has more millionaires per square foot than almost any place on earth, with a healthy collection of billionaires thrown in for good measure. And this is where, tomorrow, the PokerStars EPT season five winds up with the Monte Carlo grand final, expected to be the richest poker tournament in European history.
It’s easy to get carried away with the sheer extravagance, from the boutiques selling at jaw-dropping prices to the hotel-sized yachts in the marina, and from the “beautiful people” dripping in the finest jewellery to the sound of yet another Ferrari passing by with its engine whining and gurgling, almost complaining at having to go so slowly.
But the poker community has shown that while money, and winning extraordinary amounts of it, is the name of the game, it has a heart. It does not lose grip of reality; it is prepared to dig deep into its own pocket to help those less fortunate.
Only last week, at the opulent resort of San Remo in Italy, PokerStars EPT players raised $70,000 for the victims of the devastating earthquake that hit the country’s central region just weeks earlier. PokerStars has raised funds for other causes, including another event to help victims of the earthquake in the south-west region of China in May of last year.
Now it is focussing on the continuing crisis in war-torn Darfur, Sudan, and will later today host the first Ante Up for Africa tournament in Europe. It will be glamorous, packed with celebrities from the world of music, sport and the small screen, all paying $4,000 to take on some of poker’s biggest names, including several from our own Team PokerStars Pro. And the best bit? They’re all playing for the cause – each cent from every buy-in will go to the Darfur fund; no-one here will win a thing.
While Ante Up for Africa has become a fixture in Las Vegas, this will be its first event in Europe. The action kicks off in the Sporting Casino, right here in Monaco at around 6pm local time. The PokerStars Blog will bring you all the action together with the brilliant photography of Neil Stoddart and our excellent video interviews with the celebs.
Meanwhile, you can learn more about the event in our earlier report – PokerStars Brings Ante Up For Africa to Europe.
As you settle back to enjoy the show, we hope you get some glow of satisfaction at belonging to a poker community that understand sometimes winning money is not everything – giving something away is just as important.
Players today are expected to include: