The $500,000 Super High Roller Bowl at the Aria attracted 42 of the games biggest players. The nosebleed buy-in attracted world-renowned players like Phil Ivey, Ole Schemion and Isaac Haxton for a chance at the the multi-million dollar first-place prize.
While every player in the room wants to win, Bill Klein has bit different motivation. The guy just won $2,465,522 for his runner-up finish in the $111,111 High Roller for One Drop – which would be life-changing money for anyone, but Klein changed many peoples lives by donating his entire payout to charity.
Klein is involved with The Shea Therapeutic Riding Center and Orangewood Children’ Home. “The first is a horse therapy that’s used for disabled children and adults and it helps the me with their motor skills and emotional skills for autism, MS, spinal problems – all sorts of birth defects.” Klein said. “It puts a child on a horse and they become on. It’s an amazing success story in a lot of cases where their motor skills improve or their connection with their emotions and their family improve.”
“The other charity I donated to deals with foster youth. It’s not a foster facility directly though, because it’s not government,” he said. “If you know anything about foster care it’s for children of all ages that have been taken from drug abuse issues, physical and emotional abuse or neglect.”
“Their families are split up or living hand-to-mouth. They’re put in very bad situations – they have problems and they don’t do well in school,” he said. “They have problems interacting, they have no family life. At some point in their life they age out of the system.”
“What you basically have done is taken these poor kids and turned them into the next generation of homeless or criminals because they have no other skill,” Klein said. “Orangewood is one of these foundations that helps them with tutoring, life skills and helps them find a craft or trade. You think it’s easy to just walk into McDonalds and say ‘Hire me,’ and manager says, ‘Why should I hire you?’ and these people don’t know how to answer that question.”
“It helps them with the interview process, helps them figure out how to get an apartment, how to get a government ID. Both those institutions have long-term benefits because those problems are never going to go away,” said Klein. “You’re not going to solve the underlying problems. We can cure Polio and there’s no need to have Polio Institute anymore. There will always be problems and they’ll always be a need for helping kids.”
Klein didn’t just get lucky at the One Drop, he regularly plays with biggest high rollers. “Most of these guys are people I’m familiar with and played with them a few times. They’re all great guys, which is a lot of fun for me, but I’m not intimidated or overwhelmed. It’s really not that much difference once you get to a certain point,” he said. “You start with the assumption that the money is already gone, you can’t take back your entry fee, just have fun with it and play your hands to see what happens.”
But just playing your cards and seeing what happens isn’t always how things go – during the One Drop final table an audience member collapsed from a medical emergency and play was halted for around 30 minutes.
Standing around waiting for life or death while playing a card game can’t be easy to deal with. “I had cancer 12 years ago, everyday is a great day for me, so I don’t a lot of long-term thoughts about what’s coming next” he said. “We’re all going to die sometime – you don’ think about every minute of every day.”
Klein has realistic expectations and doesn’t expect other players to donate like he does. “You have to put in perspective, yeah I give my poker winnings away, but that’s what they do for a living – I did’t give away my living,” Klein said. “I didn’t give my company away, that’s a different story. I give my recreational money away. Some players have done things already. Some are involved in the One Drop, some in REG, they’ve been actively involved.”
“I think things like One Drop and REG help spread the word, we have to take a minute and try to reach out,” Klein continued. “As a society, the government can’t fix everything. We’re people helping people. That’s all you can do.”
While Klein is a philanthropist on and off the felt, he’s a much different person when it comes to the golf course. “Golf is different money,” he said.” The day after he finished runner-up in the One Drop he hit the golf course.
“I played on Friday and lost $50 to my friend David Clair and that’s all I could think about. I flew back the next day because we had another round in Orange County – I lost another $60. I was more upset than if I busted out of this without making a dime. I always say ‘Golf money is different money.'”
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