Celebs & Pros Ante Up for Africa

Non-ESPN Media Shut Out, No Reports to Come

by , Jul 2, 2008 | 6:50 pm

Let me start out by saying that the Ante Up for Africa tournament is a stellar effort to raise money for Darfur refugees and awareness of the mass atrocities taking place in Africa and around the world. The ENOUGH and Not On Our Watch projects are doing wonderful things, and I hope this tournament raises a great deal of money for the causes.

The tournament was held in the Brasilia room here at the Rio. That’s all I know. How many players? Didn’t have time to count because the media was given 15 minutes for photos before we were kicked out. Names of all the celebrities and poker pros? Again, not enough time to write them down. Hopefully, a press release will be issued with all of the information at some point.

Good news? Mekhi Phifer was playing in the tournament.

Bad news? I’m not sure where to begin.

Blanket statement: The media aspect of this day was handled poorly. Very poorly.

First, no one told the poker media that we needed to get – or attempt to get – special media passes or check in at the media desk. Most of us figured that since the tournament was being held during the WSOP, in the same area as the WSOP, and with Harrah’s staff, our media badges were good. Wrong. Those who didn’t check in with the special media desk had no idea that there was a special press conference held in a separate room just before the tournament was scheduled to start.

Second, the media was given 15 minutes from the start of the tournament to get pictures before being kicked out. The paparazzi and other random media that came to cover the celebrities came in with their massive video and camera equipment, ignoring the no-flash rule and completely stepping on the poker media’s toes. I nearly got bashed in the head twice with the monstrous cameras held by the paparazzi, and I was pushed out of the way more times than I could count. There was no extra space set up between tables to accommodate the media – unlike the $50K HORSE event which was done splendidly – and we ended up hovering over and crowding the players. It was a clusterfuck at the highest level.

Third, when the media was told to get out of the tournament area after our 15 minutes, the fans – who were lined up along the rail and in special bleachers set up for them – applauded. The only thing that stopped me from giving them the finger was the possibility of losing my press pass for the remainder of the WSOP. It was embarrassing for us, and the fans should be ashamed. If it wasn’t for the media, none of those wanna-be’s and lookie-loo’s would even know this thing existed or have pictures from the internet to copy and show to friends. Be careful when you bash the media for trying to do our jobs, because without us and our efforts, you wouldn’t know a percentage of what you know about the world of poker or celebrity.

Lastly, I went back to the tournament area about two hours in to the tournament to see who was left at the tables, what the action was like, etc. I looked in and saw a ton of people milling around – some just sitting on chairs at unused tables, some with no badges hovering around the few tables still in action. So, I went through the ropes and headed to the tables to see who was still in. I barely got there when a Harrah’s rep came over to instruct me to leave immediately. I had a WSOP press pass and was not allowed inside the ropes. I pointed to the 50 or 75 random people roaming in the same area and asked what credentials allowed them to do so, and I was told that they were ESPN workers or Harrah’s employees or Ante Up for Africa volunteers. Really? I noted that many of them had no badges, and she only responded by telling me to leave at that moment.

Well, congratulations to the organizers. They have successfully pissed off a majority of the poker media who were here by keeping us out of the loop, restricting our initial access, and denying us additional access throughout the event. What are we supposed to write about this tournament? It’s happening. That’s about it.

Again, let me emphasize that the purpose of the tournament is admirable, and I hope a great deal of money is raised today. Ante Up for Africa is a fabulous way to raise money for a cause that desperately needs more attention and assistance.

It’s just a shame that the poker media weren’t given the opportunity to cover the event with any sort of precedence or thoroughness. Many of us showed up at the Rio today specifically to cover the tournament, and we were stepped on and shut out. That’s not a very effective way to get good coverage, in my humble opinion.

Thanks for reading my rant. Just for kicks, here are some photos that I nabbed in my 15 minutes of media time. Back to your regularly scheduled snarky, non-controversial coverage of the poker universe.

8 Comments to “Celebs & Pros Ante Up for Africa”

  1. Kevin Mathers


    Just hide your badge, problem solved.

  2. mike g

    What’s a Mekki Phifer?

  3. DanM

    Jen, Kevmath makes a good point …

    Mike G, Mekhi is the dark-handsome Hollywooder that make Jen goes tickle in her secret spot.

  4. jonnydallas

    I think Harrah’s may just be protecting the celebs (whales) from the paparazzi (media).

    If I was in a gang of super rich celebrity types playing in a poker tournament, I wouldn’t want anyone hawking me either. And if I was Harrah’s I would do whatever the people playing the most money wanted.

  5. California Jen

    Hiding the badge would’ve gotten me a spot on the rail with a bunch of fan geeks.

    Dan, what Mekhi does to me is a private matter.

  6. DanM

    From what I understand, there were so many asshole paparazzi there that they had no choice but to keep it all limited.

    I also gotta say I was happy to see the agents were kept away for the most part, too — no pokerstars or full tilt patches on these guys. The agents have been the asswads of “poker media” in my opinion this year. How’d they get their credentials anyway?

  7. Kevin Mathers

    Charles Barkley and Kenny Smith were wearing UB patches from pictures Mean Gene took that appeared on Pauly’s site.

  8. Johnny Hughes

    Messing with the press is never wise. In the earliest World Series at Binion’s, the press were treated extremely well including full food comps. Benny and Jack Binion had a poker player’s only buffet and the press were welcome, free. This buffet was the best in Las Vegas at the time.

    There weren’t very many sweaters watching the games, and the rope was only a few feet away. Benny was a super outlaw. The early series were an annual convention for bookmakers, dice men, con men, and some professional poker players. These folks and the writers had a cult-like loyalty to the Binions. Writers could roam in and out of the offices, get access to press releases with chip counts, and photos provided by the casino. The press tourney was a ton of fun. All of the big players were available for interviews, especially Amarillo Slim. Chip would serve as a commentator if he got knocked out. Everything was tiny compared to today.

    Johnny Hughes