Top poker players are lauded for massive results in high stakes tournaments and cash games. Dan Smith’s been on the receiving end of such praise for many years, but he is grabbing headlines with an entirely different “seven-figure” score this week. It all started with a Tweet on November 15th in which Smith encouraged his followers to donate to his charity drive. Smith would match $175,000, and this quickly spun out of control, to him raising almost a tenfold of that; the final tally being $1.7 million.
By using GiveWell’s list of recommended charities, Smith picked three of the world’s most efficient charities, on top of a few that “give me warm and fuzzy feelings.” The list of charities he’s supporting sits at 11, some of which are more known than others. For instance, through wanting to support mental health causes, Smith included “Liberation Prison Yoga” and “Massachusetts Bail Fund” on his list, the latter he got recommended by public defender and former poker pro Ariel ‘FoxwoodsFiend’ Schneller.
The biggest single amount raised for one charity was $287,535 for the “Against Malaria Fund,” that is also supported by Raising For Effective Giving (REG) group. REG was co-founded by poker players Liv Boeree and Igor Kurganov.
The amount Smith matched wasn’t even the biggest one of this drive, as highly successful Daily Fantasy Sports brothers Martin and Tom Crowley jumped into the mix donating a total of $1,050,000.
“Both seemed truly motivated to do as much as possible, and they asked whether I thought an anonymous donation might be more effective. I thought publicly donating would do more good, because maybe if someone has a huge 2017, they’ll end up donating $100,000 instead of $10,000.”
“From brief conversations with them,” Smith said about the Crowley brothers, “They seem mostly interested in making a difference in the world, and – in my opinion – they think that the best thing they can do is kick people’s butts at DFS and donate a pile of money.”
While superstar donators might encourage other big winners to donate, Smith wants to emphasize and encourage that even the smallest amount will have an impact.
“I’m hoping to inspire others to try to make a difference. One person can change a lot. On paper, it seems improbable, but it is always going to appear that way. Donating a tiny amount of money, even $5, is infinitely better than giving zero. For $5 someone can buy two malaria nets, which dramatically changes someone’s life. It’s eight days of living in Kenya.”
“For me, I wanted to go big for a few reasons. I thought my situation – having a big social media reach – was unique. I’m hoping that by donating publicly, I would encourage others to donate instead of making silly “baller” mistakes it seems all 22-year-old poker players go through. I wanted to send the message that big donations are possible.”
The famous Nevada desert festival Burning Man, had a profound impact on Smith this past year, as he – for the first time – felt like he appreciated how far he’s come, and how grand his poker accomplishments are.
“I hadn’t ever taken stock of the fact of how ridiculous it is that I became one of the best in the world at my craft,” Smith said before adding, “I had a dream starting when I was still in high school, and I went out and exceeded my expectation. Realizing that becoming one of the best in the world at something very competitive is per definition special.”
“The primary benefit of money to me at this point in my life, is that it allows me to gamble bigger. Granted, I already have a chunk of money and am living a pretty comfortable life. But professional gambling is very competitive, who knows how many years I am going to be on top of the game? How long edges will be big enough for it to be an exciting use of time? I think being a skilled gambler is not close to enough to be very successful in this industry. You have to be gambling the right percentages of your bankroll in the right spots to grow your bankroll efficiently.”
“It costs $3,200 to save a life, so we’re impacting thousands of people in a profound way,” Dan Smith said when we asked him to quantify the number of individuals affected by the money he and 133 other people raised in the last 40 days.
We will be seeing lots of Smith at the tables in the upcoming year, despite skipping the PokerStars Championship Bahamas and Aussie Millions. After the big Macau and Monaco events followed by SCOOP, we will see Smith in action during – what he called – “my favorite tournament of the year,” the Super High Roller Bowl in Las Vegas and the subsequent World Series of Poker.
Smith’s own website and blog can be found by clicking this link.