Outpouring of hearts!

Sep 11, 2006 5:17 AM

Last week, there were more than just spades, clubs, diamonds and hearts creating stories on the poker table. Poker players opened their own hearts for a very special cause.

This exceptional outpouring resulting in an impromptu fundraiser for the unborn baby of World Poker Tour cameraman Paul Hannum, who tragically died five weeks ago at the age of 45. Hannum was engaged to Sarah Percy, who is seven months pregnant with their child, nicknamed "Baby Hannum."

When the call went out for help, it was answered in a big way. Poker pro and WPT Player of the Year Gavin Smith, the World Poker Tour and the Bicycle Casino took leadership roles in paving the way for mother and child.

During the final table of the Legends of Poker at the Bicycle Casino, professional players stepped forward to help Sarah and Baby Hannum.

It began with Smith, a close friend of Hannum, approaching Haig Kelegian, the managing partner of the Bicycle Casino, and WPT founder Steve Lipscomb about staging a benefit poker tournament at the Bike on the night before the Legends of Poker Final Table.

The end result of their combined energy and commitment produced a tournament with a $1,000 buy-in that attracted 115 players to support the cause and compete for a seat at the $25,000 WPT Championship and a host of other phenomenal prizes.

The event was expertly managed by Kristin Cranford, a former WPT production staff member, who donated her time.

Among the players who came out and participated were Barry Greenstein, Joe Sebok, Michael Mizrachi, Allen Cunningham, Melissa Hayden, Jeff Madison, Lee Watkinson, Scott Wilson, Vince Van Patten, Dick Van Patten, Phil Laak, Jennifer Tilly, Shirley Rosario, Vanessa Rousso, Mark Seif, Casey Kastle, Kenna James, J.C.Tran, Mel Judah, Alex Outhred, Nam Le, Lou Diamond Phillips, Courtney Friel, Mike Sexton, David Singer, Billy Burke and Chris Ferguson.

When the dust cleared, Jennifer Tilly was the victor, but the gracious actress made the exceptional gesture of declining the first place prize and giving it back to the baby’s fund.

Gavin Smith won second place — a $10,000 seat in a WPT main event — and then promptly announced that he would give 50% of any winnings from that tournament to Baby Hannum.

But the real surprise came the next night when Scotty Nguyen, soon to be a dad himself, convinced the other players at the Legends of Poker Final Table to donate a portion of their winnings to Baby Hannum — with Nguyen putting in a sizeable donation, followed by Hoyt Corkins, Kevin O’Donnell, Randy Holland and then winner Joe Pelton, who put in twice what the others individually contributed!

"I want this to be just a starting place," said Smith. "I’d like to encourage all the other final table players throughout the WPT’s entire Season V to make a contribution. We also intend to hold the tournament annually, so that as a poker community, we can provide a family for Paul’s family."

Donations are still being welcomed at www.babyhannum.com. Pictures of the benefit tournament will be posted on www.thebike.com, with proceeds going to Baby Hannum.

"I still cannot believe the outpouring of support from the poker community," said Sarah Percy. "Our little baby will know what a great dad she had by the incredibly generous show of support from his wonderful friends in poker."