Poker writer, Robbie Strazynski, talks to Lee Davy about his 2017 goal to raise money for the Kids Kicking Cancer charity by creating a personal challenge to run 1,000km in 2017.
Poker, more than any other game or sport in the world, has done so much to help reduce suffering in the world via its various philanthropic endeavours. It started out with brands such as the World Poker Tour (WPT), World Series of Poker (WSOP), and PokerStars. It spread to the players and the formation of Raising For Effective Giving (REG) and Charity Series of Poker (CSOP). And now it’s the turn of the poker media.
Robbie Strazynski from CardPlayer Lifestyle and Poker Update fame, has jumped on the charity choo-choo train to raise a few bucks for Kids Kicking Cancer in his 1,000km Charity Poker Challenge ‘Running Well’, and I caught up with him to ask him where this all began?
What are your earliest memories of ‘charity’?
“Starting from when I was in elementary school, my mother used to take my brothers and me to volunteer at a food distribution centre – “Tomchei Shabbos” – every Thursday evening.
“Foodstuffs were donated to local needy families in the Los Angeles Jewish community each week by local supermarkets and wholesalers, so volunteers were needed to pack the boxes, whose contents were tailored to the needs of each family. Additional volunteers would then drive the boxes around town to deliver the boxes right to the doorstep.”
I believe the ’Running Well’ campaign began in 2015, talk about that time and the birth of the idea?
“Running Well” was, indeed, one of the ten goals I set for myself at the outset of 2015. My idea was to pledge $1 to charity per km run, with the poker connection being trying to get other poker fans and members of the poker community to match the donations. I ran/raised over $140, and Linda Johnson and Jan Fisher were kind enough to step up, each donating almost $350 to the cause.
“In 2016, I expanded the campaign to include a $5 donation for every time I played tennis and temporarily renamed it “Running Aces”. 31 tennis matches + over 250 km later, I was able to get my donations up to a little over $400 for the year.
“Realising that if I truly wanted to get other people to support my campaign I’d have to do something “BIG”, the idea for the 1,000 km charity poker challenge was born. At the very minimum, I hope to run 1,000 km and personally donate $1,000 to Kids Kicking Cancer by the end of the year.”
Why choose ‘Kids Kicking Cancer?’
“Kids Kicking Cancer was founded by Rabbi Elimelech Goldberg, whose son is a personal friend of mine. Rabbi Goldberg was acknowledged as one of CNN’s Top 10 Heroes of 2014 for his incredible work.
“When I was searching for a charity to run for at the start of 2015, I discovered that the organisation has branches in both Israel (where I live) and the US (where I was born and raised) – as well as many other locations around the world – so it just felt right.
“Last year, I also ran a charity poker night to benefit Kids Kicking Cancer, and Rabbi Goldberg came to speak to us in person, which was wonderful on so many levels.”
What are your views on giving to charity in general, in particular, your thought process on choosing a charity?
“The work that REG does is phenomenal, and their “GTO” approach to ensure donated funds are maximised by the most effective charities is fantastic.
“That said, I think that pretty much by definition, every charity is a “deserving” cause. While it’s important for logic to play a role in deciding how to best donate your time and money, one’s emotions also play a role. I suppose I’m just drawn more to causes that tug at my heartstrings.”
You mentioned the Dan Smith Challenge in one of your interviews – Why do you think it’s impossible for ‘regular people’ to achieve those sorts of sums?
“By “regular” people, I mean people of average financial means and social influence. It seems logical that someone of greater means and social influence would have an easier time raising larger sums for a charitable effort that they’d want to get behind.
“So, I suppose it’s not impossible for regular people to raise $1.7 million for charity, but it would be immeasurably more difficult. In any event, that doesn’t mean that smaller donations and more humble fundraising efforts are any less important. There’s a lot of value in having the discipline to work hard all year long towards a charity fundraising goal, even if it’s “just” $1,000.”
“You’re hoping that Daniel Negreanu, Bill Perkins, and Antonio Esfandiari will match your donation; why them?”
“Well, plainly put, everyone in the poker community knows that Antonio Esfandiari, Daniel Negreanu, and Bill Perkins love a good prop bet; they’ve each demonstrated that extensively over the years.
“I figured that if any of them would be willing to pledge a $1,000 match – assuming I’d be able to complete the full 1,000km during the year – aside from it being wonderful on a purely financial level, it would also give a boost of notoriety to what I’m trying to do, and thus hopefully encourage others in and outside the poker community to make pledges of their own.”
How has the initiative been received so far?
“The reception I’ve gotten has been overwhelmingly positive. My local circle of friends, work colleagues, and poker buddies are rooting me on and are regularly inquiring about my progress. Within the poker community, many have reached out to me publicly on Twitter or privately via email/text with messages of support.
“A few people have graciously stepped up and opened their wallets as well. My friends Gabi and Rivke Sackett, the WPT’s Donnie Peters, and one of my Twitter followers Matthew Lanouette have pledged $0.10, $0.25, and $0.10 per kilometre, respectively, so that’s potentially another $450 for charity if I can complete the challenge. I’ve completed approximately 70km thus far and document each run using #charitypoker1000km on Twitter.
“I’d also specifically like to point out that my wife, Miriam, has been super supportive of my efforts thus far. Hearing her tell me how proud she is every time I lace up for and step off the treadmill is more encouraging than pretty much anything else.
“Last thing, I just want to stress that aside from my own $1,000 donation I’m not handling any money – I’d just like to encourage everyone who makes a pledge to donate directly to Kids Kicking Cancer.”
And here is that link.