A growing poker vlogging community is chipping in to help those affected by the Las Vegas mass shooting.
Brad Owen and Andrew Neeme, two of the most popular poker vloggers on YouTube, on Sunday held their semi-regular poker meetup game. The game was being livestreamed for a Twitch broadcast of Bellagio Poker on the Strip (twitch.tv/BellagioPOTS), and became a live and online platform for an impromptu fundraiser for families impacted by the Las Vegas shooting.
“I suppose we’re very much still in the immediate aftermath, being only slightly more than a week after the events. There’s an undercurrent of sadness and plenty of discussion that will continue, as poker games and life continue.” Neeme said in an interview with CardsChat.
“Poker feels a little less important to some degree following something like this,” he said. “At the same time, there’s the other side of the balancing act in that people want to do things that bring a sense of normalcy.”
That’s part of why Neeme, a player who shares his efforts grinding for a living as a rising mid-stakes pro on his popular YouTube channel and other social media platforms (he has more than 71,000 YouTube subscribers, and 14,000 Instagram followers) wanted to do something a little extra.
The Brad Owen and Andrew Neeme meetup game has been taking place at different casinos across town for a few months now. Their games tend to be high action with a fair amount of drinks being served, and have become a favorite on BellagioPOTS.
At one game earlier in September, they decided to put a tip jar by the table to raise money for hurricane relief, and invited their fans following on social media to donate online. That effort generated $1,200.
On Sunday, the game at Bellagio was $5/$5 no-limit hold’em with a mandatory $10 straddle. It also was an opportunity to come together and do something to help at home.
Neeme and Owen, both Las Vegas locals, again put out the tip jar, and in a matter of several hours it filled with $1,701 in bills and chips that could help victims of the mass shooting and their families.
Paying It Forward
Though they don’t yet have a total that includes online donations, the final tally is going towards a crowdfunding effort organized by Las Vegas retailer Zappos, which has promised to match every dollar donated up to $1 million. As of Monday, Zappos had reached nearly $325,000 of their goal.
By donating to the Zappos campaign, Neeme and Owen are working with the Direct Impact Fund, a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit (meaning they’re legit) that aims to provide a transparent process that makes sure money is directed to reputable efforts associated with good causes.
It’s a small drop in the bucket, but Neeme said he was impressed by the number of poker players and dealers who chipped in. “Lots of small numbers adds up to a big number,” he said.
Neeme specifically noted a player named Brad who gave $500 before cards even got in the air, and a Bellagio dealer named Crissy who donated 100 percent of her tips that evening to the cause.
“One positive that comes from poker is that people need to come together for it to exist,” he said. “So, while there may be the sense that poker doesn’t matter following a tragedy, it’s a small-scale reminder of the fact that we’re a community, and whether it’s talking with each other or gathering some donations one night, poker can be helpful to strengthen that sense of community.”