First-Timer Wins Charity Poker Tournament


Professor Charles Nesson at the charity poker tournament.

115 started, but by midnight, only one remained. On Tuesday night, Jonathan Sar, 1L, was crowned the winner of the annual Charity Poker Tournament, which benefits Summer Public Interest Funding. Sar was playing in his first-ever tournament, and was going on little more than some video poker experience and hurried tutorials from friends the day of the tournament.

The evening started with a full Ropes-Gray Room, decorated with balloons, movie posters, and a screen running the poker movie Rounders. Volunteers, under the direction of tournament director David Moss, Public Interest Auction co-chair Liane Ong, and others, included pit bosses in dark suits and roving waiters and waitresses. Several faculty members came out to play, including Climenko Fellow Wes Oliver, Professor Adriaan Lanni, and Professor Charles Nesson, who hung in for several rounds before being knocked out by 1L Andrew Woods.

Some players were surprised by their own luck, or lack thereof. Players eliminated early set up a side game, and played on through the night. Others couldn’t seem to make a wrong move. Emily Broad, 1L, was pressured into playing by section-mate Moss, and ended up the Annie Duke of the tournament: the last woman standing, in 11th place. “I can’t believe it,” said Broad. “I thought I was going to go out in the first round.” Later, watching the final table, Broad said loudly, “You mean five of the same suit can win?” The crowd around her groaned.

The final table consisted of 3L Charlie Platt, 2Ls Seth Pritikin, Josh Kreamer, and Sammy Kardon, and 1Ls Sar, Aman Solomon, Chaim Kagedan, Dan Epps, and Tejinder Singh. Singh had gone out earlier in the tournament, but inherited 1L Brendan Hickey’s chip stack when Hickey left for a basketball game. Hickey later came back to cheer on his section-mate and his chips.

Almost 30 players and volunteers stayed to watch the action at the final table, despite the late hour. Even the Harvard Police Department officer on duty joined the crowd at the table, admitting that he watches poker on TV all the time, and this security assignment was “not a bad job at all.”

The top five players won prizes donated by faculty and members of the community. The Singh/Hickey relay team came in fifth and won a dinner certificate for 2 to Border CafĂ©. Singh appeared to be considering whether that was better than the fourth place prize on his last hand, asking “Are margaritas included?” before pushing all his chips in. Kagedan and Kreamer came in fourth and third, respectively, both winning $50 gift certificates from the Coop.

That left Kardon and Sar heads-up at the table. The men went to Dartmouth together, and earlier in the evening were playing at the same table. “He was teaching me about being in early and late position,” said Sar, laughing. Sar was coached and cheered on by girlfriend Nathalie Cohen, who had lasted into the late rounds and was the second-to-last woman left playing. In one of the last hands of the game, Kardon turned his cards over early, and while most of the onlookers saw the hand, a high pair, Sar did not. Sar chose to continue playing the hand, and surprised the table – and himself – by winning it with a flush (five cards of the same suit). A couple hands later, it was over. Kardon and Sar hugged, and then Cohen and Sar celebrated their prize: center-court Celtics tickets donated by Professor Alan Dershowitz.

Kardon, who won a pair of Bruins hockey tickets, took the loss in stride. “I made a bet with a friend that I would stay in longer than he did,” he said. “Once he came over and told me he was out, it was just a free roll from there. I had a great time, and it’s for a great cause.”

The poker tournament was run by the Public Interest Auction committee, which is gearing up for its big event next month. This year’s auction, “Lights! Camera! Auction!” is April 6, and kicks off with a silent auction at 5:30 pm.

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