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Las Vegas Poker Tournament Raises Money for African Conflict Areas

  • Jennifer Glasse

Actor Matt Damon playing in the charity poker tournament

Actor Matt Damon playing in the charity poker tournament

A charity poker tournament in Las Vegas has raised millions of dollars and is working to raise awareness about the conflicts in Darfur and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

In a Las Vegas Casino, players are laying their cards on the table to promote change in Darfur and the Democratic Republic of Congo. This is Ante Up for Africa, a charity tournament where celebrities and professional poker players team up to raise money and awareness for Africa. Tournament organizer Annie Duke wants to support sustainable change.

"The more that you can do to create stability in an area and create jobs and create infrastructure the more sustainable change you are creating," said Annie Duke.

Co-organizer actor Don Cheadle says there has been some progress in the four years since they began this event.

"It is one of those situations that sometimes feels like two steps forward and one step back, when we started this there was no special envoy to Sudan, now he is in place," said Don Cheadle.

The money raised here helped build a school in Darfur this year. Since it began, the event has raised more than $3 million. Boxer Evander Holyfield and actor Matt Damon are among this year's players

"To build a school in Darfur, that is wonderful, and it is tangible, and so for people who are donating they can really see a direct impact in changing kid's lives," said Matt Damon.

Professional poker players say they have been moved by what they have learned about Africa.

"It is brutal, it is absolutely brutal to see what is going on there, it makes you cry," said player Jennifer Harmon. "I know this tournament is more about raising awareness than raising money and hopefully there will be a lot of awareness being raised."

"We are on one planet, we are all intertwined, what happens in Africa, does affect us here eventually and we need to spread goodwill and help educate the entire world," said professional player Erich Bloch.

While the conflict in Darfur first inspired the tournament, money is also going to projects in Chad and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

This year's Ante Up for Africa event coincides with the the launch of a new campaign against conflict minerals, used to make computers and cellphones. They are mined in the Democratic Republic of Congo and the trade is fueling the conflict there.

"Five million people killed in the last 10 years, hundreds of thousands of woman and girls raped, horrible stuff," says a video by Enough Project.

Money from Ante up for Africa helped the charity Enough Project make this video.

"Here is some tin and this is called Tantalum, and this is Tungsten."

"Our militias use violence to control mines, and trading routes and then make hundreds of millions selling these minerals to electronics companies," continues the video.

Advocacy group Refugees International is another beneficiary. Sara Fusco, the assistant director for online communications, says the tournament offers unique exposure.

"It raises the profile of our work in a segment of society that maybe are not completely exposed to our work," said Sara Fusco.

A seat at the table here cost $5,000, and the winners usually donate all the prize money to the charity. Participants say even if the cards do not go their way, in this game at least, everybody wins.

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