It was a Saturday full of fun on PokerStars as the star-studded Stars CALL For Action — Powered by PokerStars celebrity charity tournament played out to raise relief funds during the global pandemic.
On the virtual felt — packed with celebrities, athletes, and other famous folks — hands were won and lost. But in truth everyone came away a winner, most especially the charities for which they were playing.
That’s because the tournament raised $1 million for a variety of charities at a time when both the charities and those whom they serve need it most.
Playing cards for a cause: Stars answered the ‘call’
Of that $1 million, $500,000 is being donated by PokerStars to CARE International, the official emergency relief partner of PokerStars since 2014.
“This partnership over the past six years means the world to us,” said CARE CEO Laurie Lee. “With PokerStars’ support we can respond quickly when emergencies strike, saving lives and delivering much-needed aid to vulnerable communities around the world.”
Meanwhile the players played for other half of the prize pool — also donated by PokerStars — in order to win money they could donate to their chosen charities.
The live updates tell the story of the poker side of things. More than 90 celebrities were in action on Saturday, among them event organizers Hank Azaria and Andy Bellin, David Schwimmer, Liam Payne, Aaron Paul, Teri Hatcher, Lisa Kudrow, Amy Schumer, Ricardinho and Neymar Jr.
The celebrity participants played a “shootout”-style tournament with each table’s winner making it to the event’s final stage, a multi-table tournament that played down to a winner.
Celebrities who won their six-handed tables and $10,000 for their chosen charities included Edward Norton, Bryan Cranston, Michael Ian Black, Nelson Figueroa, Don Cheadle, Tony Yazbeck, Macauley Culkin, Thomas Lennon, and Tohi.
Also making the final stage were the top six finishers from the “Player Invitational” half of the event, a group that included Amy Schumer’s sister Kim Carmele and PokerStars Blog’s own Jack Stanton.
You can check out Jack’s account of his wild ride to just a few spots shy of the event’s final table here: “How I gatecrashed the most star-studded poker tournament of all time (and won $10K for charity).”
Actor David Costabile wins event, $100,000 for World Central Kitchen
Those making the six-handed final table all had a chance to win even more for their chosen charities. Among that group were a couple of familiar faces sporting the red spade as PokerStars Ambassadors, Jennifer Shahade and Chris Moneymaker.
After the quick knockout of retired UK rugby standout Mike Tindall in sixth, Moneymaker followed in fifth. Actor Casey Affleck was the one who felted Moneymaker, but alas for Affleck he soon was knocked out himself in fourth.
With three left it looked for a time like Shahade might be the one to take it down, but she fell in third when Brazilian footballer Douglas Costa‘s ace-ten managed to outdraw her ace-queen.
Costa enjoyed a huge lead to start heads-up versus actor David Costabile with a more than 6-to-1 chip advantage. But a couple of doubles for Constabile put him back in contention, and soon after taking the lead the star of The Wire, Breaking Bad, and Billions took pocket fours up against Costa’s ace-king suited, and the small pair held.
Costabile was playing for the World Central Kitchen, and thanks to winning he was able to donate another $100,000 to a great charity that supplies food to those who need it most.
Here’s how the final table stacked up, along with the extra amounts the players won for their charities:
1st: David Costabile – $100,000
2nd: Douglas Costa – $75,000
3rd: Jennifer Shahade – $40,000
4th: Casey Affleck – $30,000
5th: Chris Moneymaker – $20,000
6th: Mike Tindall – $10,000
There was a “Second Chance” event as well for celebrities who finished runner-up at their shootout tables, and in that tournament retired UK footballer Wayne Bridge won the winner-take-all top prize of $50,000 after beating out actor Gabriel Macht heads-up. Bridge is donating his winnings to The Little Roo Neonatal Fund.
Highlights from ‘an amazing day’
“What an amazing day it was,” said Hank Azaria afterwards. “I was genuinely moved to connect with so many people that I like and admire for such a wonderful cause and I remain blown away by how much PokerStars stepped up.”
“They put up $10K towards COVID relief for every celebrity that participated and then, even though we didn’t quite reach 100 celebrities, they went ahead and gave a full million dollars anyway which was really incredible. And I got to play some poker!”
When we spoke to Azaria last week, he joked with us about how he, Bellin, and others in his home game now play regularly over Zoom, then he edits his best moments afterwards to send out to the group.
No joke — PokerStars has done something similar with Saturday’s event, pulling highlights and fashioning a collection of best moments from the show. Enjoy: