I’m a poker player. Not one you’d have heard of, mind you, but a fairly competitive one nonetheless. I play online, I’ve dabbled in “real” tournaments, and I even do the old-school thing and get together with friends for a game from time to time. It’s a hobby, as well as a way to make some extra cash now and then — but it’s not usually something I bother trying to interest others in if they don’t already play.
That changed a little bit in the past year, for three completely unrelated reasons. The first was an article here on World Matters, explaining how people were volunteering to help ease environmental concerns. It made me wonder as someone who isn’t as hands-on as others, how could I help the world?
The second was the disastrous climate report out of the UN that seems to have gotten everyone’s attention more than past versions of the same general warning. Our environment is in trouble, and at last, there appears to be some urgency to deal with the problem (though it’s still nowhere near enough).
The third reason was the poker comeback facilitated by online video chats (as well as online poker sites and apps) and brought about by the pandemic. If you’re not involved with the game whatsoever, you probably didn’t notice any of this. But as someone who plays, let me assure you that interest in poker rose during the pandemic, as people sought out fun ways to interact across virtual space. I have no idea where this trend is heading, but poker feels more popular than at any point in the past decade.
To me, these two unrelated developments connect in the form of a simple idea: more people playing poker for an environmental charity and helping our planet. And there are a few reasons I’m making a plea to that end, aside from the fact that I’m personally interested in both poker and climate preservation.
The first is that charity poker is something just about anybody can do. Of course, it takes some time to develop true skills in the game, but learning the rules of poker is relatively simple and helps new players get up to speed in minutes. It comes down to some basic rules about when cards are dealt, when betting occurs, and how to form a hand. From there, you can learn more skills as you go, and eventually, figure out the strategies and intricacies of the game if you like. But anyone can learn enough to play a few games and have some fun.
The other main reason this idea stands out to me is that there are so many ways to play poker for charitable causes. First and foremost, you can arrange a game with people you know, agree on buy-in and a specific charity, and simply play on your own. Additionally, you can keep an eye out for organized charity tournaments — which may not be happening all the time in your vicinity, but which are by no means unheard of either. Lastly, and perhaps most enjoyably, you can also organize a poker run. This is essentially an event in which you and others organizing with you set up checkpoints on a course around town (or around a given area) where people stop to pick up cards — ultimately forming poker hands to see who wins at the finish line. It can be done on foot, on a scooter, on an e-bike, or really however else you might imagine. But it’s common for these events to be built around charities, and you can certainly organize one for a specific environmental cause.
I’ve done some thinking about why exactly we do hear about charity poker fairly frequently. Sometimes, of course, it comes down to celebrity involvement. But it’s also a means of charitable giving that people genuinely enjoy. It’s fun to play the game, it’s fun to win, and depending on the structure of the event, you may even stand to take in a small pot of winnings in addition to a larger sum heading for charity. Whatever the case, it’s an engaging, social, and enjoyable activity that can become your way to raise a little bit of money for a favourite environmental cause.
It’s not a solution by any means. But if the climate report taught us anything it’s that every effort is needed. And with more people taking an interest in poker, I hope charitable games for environmental benefits can become trendy in the coming months and years.