Brian Jones/Las Vegas News Bureau
Sunday, July 4, 2010 | 10:26 a.m.
Matt Damon and Brad Garrett
2010 Ante Up for Africa
Even without movie star Ben Affleck, felled upon arrival here with a blinding migraine, there was still an all-star turnout for Oscar nominee Don Cheadle and Celebrity Apprentice star Annie Duke’s Fourth Annual Ante Up for Africa charity poker tournament yesterday at The Rio.
Action hero superstar Matt Damon was the focus of the photographers’ flashes on the red carpet, and he told me exclusively that he would like to do another Jason Bourne film. Thanks to our contributing photographers Tom Donoghue, Erik Kabik and Las Vegas News Bureau’s Brian Jones, who were all on duty for our great photo galleries, and to Richard Corey for his videos posted on YouTube.
The stars raised more than $275,000 to aid the victims of the horrible humanitarian crisis in Darfur, Sudan. First place went to professional poker player Phil Gordon, who edged out American Pie actress Shannon Elizabeth in the best play yet of her new poker career. Phil won $129,086 and donated it all to the charity.
“I always wanted to win an event at the World Series of Poker,” said Phil after his win. “Of course, it had to be a non-gold bracelet event.” He has made it to multiple final tables in the WSOP but had never won until yesterday. Shannon had similar feelings: “I wish the rest of my WSOP had gone the way this tournament went.”
Ante Up for Africa attracted 83 regular players this year, who each paid a $5,000 fee for the No-Limit Hold ’Em tournament playing alongside Annie, Shannon, Don, Matt, plus Brad Garrett, Montel Williams, David Alan Grier, Evander Holyfield, Jerome Bettis and poker pros champion Phil, Chris Ferguson, Andy Bloch, Howard Lederer, Phil Ivey, John Hennigan, Joe Hachem, Michael Mizrachi, Rafe Furst and Erik Seidel.
All of the in-the-money finishers donated a portion of their winnings to the charity. In the three previous years of the tournament, the stars have raised more than $3 million to provide humanitarian aid for the African continent’s worst crisis.
Matt told me: “I come back every year for this because what we’re doing has really helped. There are real positive results coming from what we’ve done. I’d be here anyway, but Don and his family are real good friends of my family, so he has my full support.” Don became involved in the Darfur charity work after his Academy Award-nominated performance in Hotel Rwanda. Just days ago, Ante Up for Africa awarded two $50,000 grants to Matt’s Water.Org charity he founded and to his pal Ben Affleck’s Eastern Congo Initiative charity.
I asked Matt if he would film more of the Jason Bourne movies.
“Absolutely yes,” he said emphatically. “I love the character. I love the stories. But only if Paul Greengrass says he will direct again. So far, though, he’s decided not to. I’d definitely say yes if he went for it. I know he would have a great story, and it would protect the legacy of what we created.
“There would be no disappointment for anybody, but we wait. There are rumors about shooting again in the middle of next year, but nothing definite yet other than his no until there’s the right script -- a great script!”
I chatted with Matt about the real-life Jason Bourne character who’d been in the news last week in L.A. when police just missed him after they raided an apartment and discovered a cache of weapons, counterfeiting equipment, high-range binoculars and narcotics alongside a 5-foot CIA mural. Brian Alexik vanished down a fire escape, but police captured him after a three-month chase. He’s remained silent so far.
Matt said, “Fascinating, but I hadn’t heard a word about it. My head is under a rock. I don’t follow the news. I’m with my family whenever I can be, and I don’t bother keeping up with anything else when I’m able to spend time with them. They are the most important thing to me.”
The stars, the poker pros and our media regulars were all agog over Australian model and TV reporter Annette Melton, who wore a see-through, black lace, baby-doll lingerie dress for her red carpet interviews. Richard captured the comedy that ensued when she tried to interview Brad.
Everybody agreed that it had been another great success and that they’d be back for the fifth go-round. Also playing was Celine Dion’s husband Rene Angelil, who said that the superstar singer was fine in her twin pregnancy. We’ll have our full story about Celine’s progress and her February start date of rehearsals for the new three-year run at Caesars Palace on Tuesday right here at Vegas DeLuxe.
Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.
Follow Robin Leach on Twitter at Twitter.com/Robin_Leach.