Poker Players All In on Helping Hurricane Harvey Victims

3 min read

Poker pro Ray Henson was on a small motorboat Tuesday morning, piloting through neighborhoods that were under water, looking for anyone stranded in the wake of Hurricane Harvey.

He briefly tried to broadcast his rescue efforts live on Facebook (see the video here), but otherwise spent the day lifting people out of the floodwaters and transporting supplies. In some cases he was unsuccessful convincing residents to leave dangerous areas and their possessions behind.

Poker pros Hurricane Harvey
Poker pro and Houston-area resident Ray Henson was among the citizen rescuers who took to the flooded streets, by boat, to help people after Hurricane Harvey. (Image: Associated Press)

As the country comes to grips with the devastation Harvey hath wrought in southeast Texas and the Gulf coast, Henson was one of several poker pros who notably sprang into action, on social media and in real life, giving their time, money, and resources to help people in need.

“Go clean out your closet,” Henson posted, “any extra blankets, food anything to help these people that literally have nothing.”

Henson, an accomplished pro with four WSOP circuit rings and nearly $2.5 million in tournament winnings, lives in Spring, Texas, 25 miles north of Houston.

“Anything helps guys. You can find somewhere near you to donate and if you can’t get out lmk (let me know) and if I can get to you I will,” Henson wrote, reaching out to his friends and strangers alike. “There are people in shelters with nothing but the wet shirt on their backs. Let’s get these people dry and fed.”

Real-Life Relief Efforts

Part-time Texan Gavin Smith soon joined the effort, getting involved by offering his garage in the Woodlands as a donation drop-off center as he rounded up volunteers, assembling a team to disperse collected items to nearby shelters.

These endeavors and others led people across the poker community to respond, including some far beyond the Houston area.

Chance Kornuth, a 2010 WSOP bracelet winner, for example, publicly pledged 5 percent of his World Championship of Online Poker cashes this Sunday and from the whole series to go toward relief efforts.

David “Doc” Sands upped the charitable ante when he tweeted: “1) Erika and I would like to donate our Vegas condo – 2 br & small room with crib – & round trip flights to a family displaced by Harvey.”

Though it’s not yet clear how he will choose and connect with a family in need, the sincerity of his offer inspired several on Twitter to pledge pieces of any winnings in upcoming tournaments.

Paying It Forward

Actor, comedian, and new poker ambassador Kevin Hart has been spearheading efforts for raising relief funds, starting with a $25,000 donation (that he later upped to $50,000) to the Red Cross, which he then challenged celebrity friends by name (and tagging) to match. He also encouraged his 34 million Twitter and 54 million Instagram followers to participate.

RunGood, a poker clothing company, promised that for anyone buying t-shirts and other products online until Tuesday (using the bonus code “Houston”) the company would donate 100 percent of the sales to the Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund.

Henson, who has been posting updates about his experiences in Houston, noted the impact he personally felt upon getting involved.

“Today was a day I’ll never forget. Being out with other volunteers and seeing people risking their lives and trying to save people they have never met before was heart melting,” he wrote. “Nobody cared what race, religion, who you voted for or who your fav football team is, everyone just came together and loved one another.”

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