Poker Pro Dan Smith’s Charity Drive Raises $1.7 Million

Over the course of a stellar career that stretches back to 2008, poker pro Dan Smith has made a habit of hauling in seven-figure scores.

The former World Poker Tour (WPT) title holder has taken down more than $1 million on five separate occasions, but in doing so for a sixth time, Smith decided to share the wealth.

On November 14, Smith took to his DanSmithHolla blog to announce the return of his charity drive, which began last year alongside fellow high-stakes pro Dan Colman. In 2015, the pair pledged to match up to $70,000 in donations, a goal which was easily met and exceeded to send $210,854 in total to worthy causes.

This time around Smith upped the ante considerably, offering $175,000 in matching funds to create an eventual $350,000 pool if the drive’s donation goals were achieved. Smith set a deadline of January 1, 2017 and began spreading the word within the poker community.

Initially, Smith’s efforts were directed at raising funds for a diverse collection of nine different charitable organizations: 350.org, Against Malaria Foundation, Give Directly, Just City, Liberation Prison Yoga, the Lineage Project, MAPS (Zendo), the Massachusetts Bail Fund, and the Schistosomiasis Control Initiative (SCI).

The causes varied greatly across the board, including the provision of mosquito nets in places where malaria is rampant, therapeutic yoga classes to assist inmates in rehabilitation, bail payments to help people avoid unnecessary court fees, and supporting the global movement to address climate change. Two of the charities – Against Malaria Foundation and GiveDirectly – were recommended by the group Raising for Effective Giving (REG), which counts several top poker pros as board members and focuses on the concept of “effective altruism.”

On December 2 the drive received a significant contribution from an anonymous donor, who pledged to match $125,000 in additional donations to the Against Malaria Foundation, GiveDirectly, and 350.org funds once Smith’s original $175,000 target had been met. In sum, the anonymous gift raised the stakes to $600,000 overall, which seemed to get the ball rolling toward an even larger effort.

Daily fantasy sports (DFS) legend Martin Crowley, who regularly competes for the largest prizes on DraftKings and FanDuel, then stepped in on December 20 to make his own impact. Crowley had already matched $325,000 in donations at a 1:1 rate, but he decided to kick in another $200,000 in matching funds to push the goal to $1 million.

Crowley penned a blog post at DFS site RotoGrinders calling for his fellow players to contribute:

“Awareness is the first step towards transformation. Though I’d love to see each member of the DFS community step up and give, I’m grateful and humbled you’ve read this far. You don’t need to donate six figures to make a difference – in fact, simply acknowledging the need is a big step for many of us. So what can you do?”

Martin’s brother Tom Crowley, another DFS superstar, then added his own $500,000 donation once the $1 million mark was surpassed, bringing the total haul to $1.7 million.

On his blog, Smith revealed that 134 individual donors contributed to the effort, before providing a breakdown of the funds allocation:

Charity – Donation

350.org – $8,556
Against Malaria Fund – $287,535
Give Directly – $115,173
Just City – $9,750
Liberation Prison Yoga – $12,868
Lineage Project – $4,000
MAPS – $31,100
Zendo – $0
Massachusetts Bail Fund – $10,325
SCI – $13,131
GiveWell Unspecified – $7,670

Subtotal – $500,408

Dan’s Match – $175,000
Martin’s Match + Extra – $525,000
Tom’s Donation – $500,000

Total – $1,700,818