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Table Talk: Poker Players to the Rescue

Red and white rescue wheelIt’s a tough time at the World Series of Poker for the majority of the players. While some of them are running good and happy with their shiny new gold bracelets and deep runs, most have not lived up to their own – or their backers’ – expectations. It’s the time of the WSOP that players try to gather the mental and physical fortitude to get through the last few preliminary tournaments and the Main Event with a positive attitude and give it their best.

The rest of us feel for them. And we see more of them at the bar these days. The message to the bartender is clear: Make something strong and keep the refills coming.

There are two stories that have emerged from this WSOP that have broken our hearts but inspired the poker community at the same time. Two people that have played important roles in the poker world had unfortunate health situations arise, and attempts to raise funds to help them and their families were met with a generosity that poker players and fans have demonstrated in the past. They did so again and are the reason that two families can feel a bit of comfort in tough times.

The first incident happened to Kevin “Phwap” Boudreau, a poker player once associated with the Ship It Holla Ballas and an accomplished player in his own right. As he was playing the World Series of Poker, he was walking in the parking lot of the Rio in Las Vegas on June 14 and collapsed. Friends called an ambulance, and he was rushed to the hospital, at which point he was diagnosed with a brain malformation called AVM. He immediately underwent surgery and had a blood transfusion due to blood loss. The ensuing coma has been the status ever since, as Kevin remains in a Las Vegas hospital.

Kevin’s family was in Colorado, and the expenses of being in Las Vegas began to pile up, as well as simply being so far from home. They decided to move him back to Colorado for long-term care until he could be brought out of the coma and to the place where most family and friends could tend to him. However, the cost of everything, including the $40,000 transport, was too much for the family, and they launched a fundraising campaign online.

The poker community stepped up in a major way. With everything from $20 donations to large contributions from the likes of John Juanda, Haralabos Voulgaris, and Randy Dorfman, as well as nearly $4K from a charity tournament held by Ultimate Poker in Nevada, the $50K goal was met this week. And contributions continue to come in to help with extra costs.

What a tremendous gift to this family in the midst of an unexpected tragedy.

The second incident happened to poker’s longtime ambassador. Mike Sexton reported in early June that his brother, Tom, had a major stroke, and Mike took a break from the WSOP to fly home and sit at his brother’s bedside. When Tom awoke and eventually went home, Mike returned to Las Vegas. While Mike kept quiet about the terrible situation that followed the stroke, his friends like Linda Johnson and Jan Fisher took note of the mounting medical bills that the family was facing and started a fundraising campaign.

This revealed more information about Tom’s condition. Medical tests showed that the stroke was caused by late-stage pancreatic cancer, which has little chance of being cured or sent into remission. Tom is walking and receiving chemotherapy, but his ability to speak and understand was severely impaired by the stroke. The copayments from the medical procedures and care have begun to mount, and without income from Tom, the family is struggling.

Tom’s contributions to the poker community have been many, as he was always Mike’s number one supporter, but he made his own mark on the game. He helped with the Tournament of Champions and other projects with Mike, as well as took amazing photographs that were compiled into collages for poker players. He was also the official photographer for the WSOP at one time, and he has taken on the role of poker reporter in years since. And even more, he was a champion not only for Mike but for the game of poker in general.

Those who set up the fundraising campaign asked for $10,000, and nearly $4,000 has already been raised in the few days since its launch. Again, the poker community is stepping in to help one of its own. The family’s gratitude can be seen on the comments section of the page in the detailed “thank you” messages posted for each donation.

Another huge showing of generosity from the poker community.

While the WSOP hits its final weeks and takes players to the Main Event, the stories that emerge around the game of poker are more inspiring than any story of cards and overcoming short stacks could be.

The poker community has the ability to set aside its arguments, debates, and bad beat stories to help those in need. Let’s focus on those stories for a moment. And instead of sending “rungood” to the players in the Main Event, let’s send it to people like Kevin and Tom who truly need that “rungood” momentum.

Join me at the bar for a toast to the generous, the caring, and the members of our community most in need. Cheers.

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