Theater fans, celebrities and industry insiders grabbed their seats at poker tables on Monday, May 18, 2015, to raise $137,200 at the inaugural edition of Broadway Bets.
Hosted by Sardi’s restaurant in the heart of New York City’s theatre district, the first-of-its-kind Broadway poker tournament offered the theatre community a new and unique way to support Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.
The rollicking evening started with 16 classic Texas Hold ‘em poker tables filling the two floors of the iconic restaurant. Using skill, strategy and a bit of luck, 10 players bested more than 120 other competitors to win their way to the championship table
One by one they dropped until there was only two. The final head-to-head was a classic showdown of management versus union, as Bill Paness, controller for The Shubert Organization, faced off against IATSE Local 311 member Eric Castaldo. Friends, poker fans and busted out players hovered around the table, cheering and cajoling the final players. In this congenial battle, Paness ultimately bested Castaldo to become the first Broadway Bets champion and winner of a VIP weekend at Foxwoods Resort Casino, the official tournament host.
“Broadway Cares presents a number of ‘capital B’ events each spring and summer with Backwards, Bonnet, Bares and Barks,” said BC/EFA Executive Director Tom Viola. “We are thrilled to welcome a fifth: Bets! Broadway Bets fits like a glove in the midst of them all, bringing a little Texas Hold ’em fervor to that eagerly anticipated annual fundraising mix of fun, excitement and community.”
The tournament welcomed an array of fans, industry insiders and celebrities, including Tony Yazbeck, a 2015 Tony Award nominee for best actor in a musical for On the Town, reigning Miss Universe Paulina Vega, actors Hank Azaria, Eric Bogosian, Paige Davis, Richard Kind, Patrick Page, Anthony Rapp and Steve Rosen, writer Brian Koppelman, producer Scott Landis, Michael Rego of The Araca Group, The Broadway League Executive Director Charlotte St. Martin and professional poker champion Erik Seidel.
In addition to Paness and Castaldo, the final “high stakes” table featured Landis, Rapp, Rego, Lorraine Gale, Gina Green from SpotCo, Eric Gross, Michael Hyde from Sweet Hospitality Group and Emma Kerr from The Araca Group.
For those not ready to go “all in,” Broadway Bets guest passes offered an opportunity to observe the poker table action and play for prizes in other casino games, including roulette, blackjack and craps.
The evening’s co-chairs were Paul Libin, executive vice president of Jujamcyn Theaters and BC/EFA Board of Trustees president, and Robert E. Wankel, president and co-CEO of The Shubert Organization and longtime BC/EFA trustee. Micah Hollingworth of Jujamcyn Theaters and Mark Shacket of Foresight Theatrical served as Broadway Bets’ tournament directors.
If you’re unable to attend Broadway Bets, but would like to support the event, make a donation now.
Full House Sponsors
The Araca Group
Foxwoods Resort Casino
The Nederlander Organization
On the Town
The Road Company
Two Pair Sponsors
Production Resource Group
Broadway Bets Co-chairs
Broadway Bets Tournament Directors
Broadway Bets Committee
J. Max Sullivan
Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS is very grateful to Foxwoods Resort Casino for its generous support of Broadway Bets. The wonderful enthusiasm, great skill and excitement brought to Texas Hold ’em on West 44th Street is only better found at its premier hotel, gaming, shopping and entertainment destination in Connecticut.
Many thanks to Felix Rappaport, president and CEO, and his Foxwoods team for sharing their best with us on Broadway.