*After coming off of the highly anticipated Christmas Day release of The Gambler, starring Mark Wahlberg, John Goodman, Jessica Lange and Michael K. Williams, lets highlight two renowned African-American professional poker players that deserve to be highlighted: Celebrity/actor Mekhi Phifer and World Poker Champion Phil Ivey.
Phifer is mostly known for his roles in 8 Mille, ER, O and Honey. However, his career in professional poker playing had simultaneously been building behind the scenes. Phifer’s first professional poker tournament was in 2008 of which he enjoyed it so much he returned for an appearance on the Celebrity Poker Showdown hosted by the world-champ Phil Gordon and Dave Foley.
Ivey has topped the charts by winning ten World Series Poker bracelets, one World Poker Tour title and appeared at nine World Poker Tour final tables. Ivey started developing his poker skills through friendly games with his colleagues at a New Jersey telemarketing firm in the late 1990s.
Upon winning three World Series Poker tournaments in 2002, Ivey was dubbed the “Tiger Woods of Poker.” Currently, with 10 World Series Poker bracelets, Ivey is tied for the second most winning players. Additionally, he holds the record as the youngest player to ever win 10 tournaments at the ripe age of 38 while no other player has garnered as many bracelets in such a short time span.
Ivey’s level of passion extends beyond the poker table. He has donated to a number of charitable causes. Ivey has donated $50,000 to Empowered 2 Excel, a Las Vegas based charity for disenfranchised youth. To top it off, Ivey founded the Budding Ivey Foundation, a non-profit organization to continue the work of his grandfather, Leonard “Bud” Simmons, raising some $260,000 geared at efforts in strengthening youth’s literacy via projects and programs.
Moviegoers can get the opportunity to see a correlating storyline between Wahlberg/s character and a student-athlete played by fresh face, Anthony Kelley. The Gambler is in theaters nationwide right now. Check out the trailer below and go out by going “ALL IN” to see this brilliant film!