More than 100 celebrities and industry VIPs took on poker's biggest players at the tables last weekend for the 8th Annual World Poker Tour® Invitational. Kicking off Saturday night with red carpet arrivals at Commerce Casino in Los Angeles, the three-day Texas Hold 'Em tournament pulled a record-setting field of 567 players and raised $109,700 for Chrysalis (www.changelives.org), a non-profit organization dedicated to helping economically disadvantaged and homeless individuals become self-sufficient through employment opportunities.
Some familiar faces who pulled up a chip and a chair for charity included Eric Dane and Rebecca Gayheart, Teri Hatcher, Dave Annable and Odette Yustman, Jenny McCarthy, Hank Azaria, Jerry Ferrara, Eddie Cibrian and LeeAnn Rimes, Jamie Lynn Sigler, Kevin McKidd, Oliver Hudson, Camryn Manheim, Donnie Wahlberg, Jennifer Tilly, Michael Vartan, Laura Prepon, Billy Burke, Ian Gomez, Shannon Elizabeth, Danny Masterson, Chris Masterson, Tia Carrere, Jesse Spencer, Matthew Lillard, and Sara Rue, as well as poker pros Chris "Jesus" Ferguson, Erik Seidel, Mike "the Mouth" Matusow, Antonio Esfandiari, Phil Laak, Mark Seif, Prahlad Freidman, JC Tran and many others.
"We're overwhelmed by the generosity of all the players and celebrities in supporting Chrysalis," said Mark Loranger, Chrysalis CEO. With $100,000 raised this evening, thousands of men and women in Los Angeles will be able to transition out of poverty and homelessness into a more hopeful future. We salute the WPT for hosting a world class event that gives back so much to the community."
After 15 hours of play spread over two days, Alfonso Ribiero, Willie Garson and Kirk Acevedo proved they could hold their own, placing in the top 50, while for the second year in a row Ricki Lake proved her poker prowess, busting out in 18th place. She was followed immediately by Marlon Wayans in 17th while Grant Heslov and David Zayas just barely missed the final 6, busting out in ninth and seventh place respectively.
The final six players include reality star Trishelle Cannatella, poker pro Thor Hansen, Commerce Casino satellite winner Steve Elliott, Bellagio satellite winner Sean Urban, amateur player Neev Baram and LeRon Washington from Virginia, who qualified to play in the Invitational through www.ClubWPT.com, WPT's legal subscription poker website. They will return to Commerce Casino on March 3 to play in front of WPT television cameras for a WPT title and a piece of the $200,000 prize pool generously donated by Commerce Casino. The winner will take home a $100,000 first place prize, which includes a $25,500 seat in the WPT World Championship held at Bellagio in April.
"Once again it is Commerce Casino's honor to host an event that has become the premiere celebrity event in poker, and at the same time, can benefit so many people in need," said John Griffo, Commerce Casino Director of Poker Operations. "After eight years, the World Poker Tour Invitational just continues to get better and better, and proves once again that Commerce is Hollywood's casino to the Hollywood stars."
"We couldn't be more thrilled with this year's event-the turnout and generosity was unbelievable," said Rohin Malhotra, WPT CEO. "Everybody wins when you can create an event that gives back to the community, especially when all it takes is bringing people together to enjoy themselves and play the game they love."
The Final Table is played on the WPT stage and filmed for broadcast on Fox Sports Net (FSN). The episode will air on FSN in May 2010.