Microsoft and actor Adrian Paul host a poker tournament to fund water wells in West Africa
By Shanee Edwards
The Microsoft Technology Center at The Reserve campus in Playa Vista will look more like a casino in Vegas on Saturday when it holds a star-studded poker game to bring freshwater wells to remote villages in West Africa.
Wells Bring Hope (wellsbringhope.org) not only drills wells, it provides education on sanitation and hygiene to people in rural areas of the world’s most underdeveloped continent. In addition, many women and girls are freed from the back-breaking work of finding and carrying water each day, allowing them time to go to school or earn a living.
The poker game is a collaboration between Microsoft and The PEACE Fund, a nonprofit founded by actor Adrian Paul — best known as the immortal Duncan McLeod of TV’s “The Highlander” — to support small, underfunded nonprofits.
Former Los Angeles County District Attorney Gil Garcetti, father of Mayor Eric Garcetti, founded Wells Bring Hope after a trip to West Africa in 2001.
The idea for a power tournament percolated back in February when Microsoft’s giving campaign got in touch with Paul after he discussed the statistic that a child dies every four seconds from diseases associated from unsafe water on his PEACE Fund radio show.
“We created this poker tournament based on the fact that we wanted to fund one or two wells in Niger, which is actually the world’s poorest country,” Paul said.
The actor/philanthropist and the tech giant are betting on Westsiders’ generosity to get the job done.
If you want to help out but aren’t confident in your poker face, Paul says there are actually three different ways you can contribute: “You can register to play, straight out. Or you can sponsor a player, much like a marathon. Or you can adopt a celebrity. You can even sit next to a celebrity for a slightly higher premium. So, people can mix with celebrities for this event or support them online at the same time. The top prize is a ticket to the World Series of Poker.”
The game is hosted by professional poker player George Kozel. Celebrity players, in addition to Paul, include comedian Michael Ian Black and actors Corey Feldman (“The Lost Boys,” “Goonies”), Carl Weathers (“Predator”), Golnesa “GG” Gharachedaghi (“Shahs of Sunset”), Rocky Carroll (“NCIS”), Don Most (“Happy Days”), Rex Linn (“CSI: Miami”), Kelly Hu (“X-Men”), Tony Denison (“The Closer”), Willie Garson (“Sex and the City”), Matthew Willig (“We’re the Millers”), Yancey Arias (“Legion”), Jill M. Melean (“Reno 911!”), Billy Burke (“Twilight”), Jarrod and Brandi Schultz (“Storage Wars”), and Maria Ho (“The Amazing Race”).
As for his own poker game, Paul says he’s “not bad, but not great. I don’t play as much poker as I’d like. I don’t usually go out in the beginning, of course if I say that, I will! But I think poker is about playing the person, not necessarily the cards all the time. You have to also understand the psychology of the game as well.”
Given the severity of the drought here in California, it may seem like a stretch to worry about providing water to those in West Africa, but Paul says there’s a very good reason to do so.
“People always say ‘Why should I worry about somebody somewhere else?’ Because eventually, somebody somewhere else may find a solution to your own problems. It also allows people to come together and create a new understanding of the issue as well.”
The poker tournament is from 1 to 5 p.m. Saturday at the Microsoft Technology Center at The Reserve, 13031 W. Jefferson Blvd., Playa Vista. Only a few seats are reserved for walkups, so advanced registration via peacefundpoker.org is the only way to guarantee a spot. Minimum buy-in for the evening is $75 plus an additional donation.