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Jeff Conine and the story behind his poker classic

Jeff Conine—Mr. Marlin

If you pay attention to the blog here at Fish Stripes, you’ll know that every year, Jeff Conine holds a poker classic. It’s a great event where people from all walks of life get together to eat food, play poker, and perhaps even chat to the main man himself. But what you may not know is the background behind this annual charity event and the reason that Jeff decided to start it in the first place.

How it all began

Back in 2000, Jeff and his wife Cindy had to unexpectedly spend quite a bit of time in the hospital. This was due to the fact that their son Tucker, who was born premature, had contracted a virus and so needed a great deal of care.

Being close to the hospital was of the utmost importance to Jeff and Cindy and, thankfully, the hospital had an on-site facility that allowed them to do just that. According to Jeff himself, the place was a blessing. It allowed him and Cindy to be close enough that they could be in the hospital in moments, but still have the comfort of staying in a place that was pretty much a three-star hotel.

Jeff was so impressed by the place that he decided to get involved. The facility was renamed Conine’s Clubhouse and provides as much comfort as possible to those who need to a place to stay near the hospital. Through Jeff’s charity work and celebrity status, they were able to make sure that the clubhouse continues to remain open seven days a week 365 days a year.

The tournament

In 2012, Jeff got the idea to combine his love for poker with his contacts in the world of celebrities to raise some much needed funds for the Clubhouse. The idea was to get some celebrity entrants to play alongside poker pros and amateurs.

Jeff himself has stated on many occasions that the classic is open to all. From poker pros right down to the absolute beginners, everyone who wants to raise money for a good cause is more than welcome to enter. However, he’s quite insistent that entrants should at the very least understand the fundamental poker rules and possibly have a strategy or two up their sleeve (no cards though!).

The first event took place in 2012 and, since then, the classic has gone from strength to strength. Some of the most famous poker pros in the world, including 2017 World Series of Poker Champion Scott Blumstein, have all chipped in and given up their time to attend and play.

Other celebrities who have attended over the years include Roberto Luongo, Roy Foster, Leroy Hoard, Mathias Kiwanuka, Miguel Rojas, Cornelius Bennett, Mark Duper, Randy Moeller, Dennis Martinez, Ki-Jana Carter, Jim Jensen, David LaMont and Gaby Sanchez.

So what happens at the classic?

Hollywood is the Conines’ home away from home Photo by: Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Well, there’s the poker of course. Players who register to play get a seat at one of the tables and the chance to win some of the $30,000 prize pool. They also get to spend some time at an after party exclusively for players and the organizers, where they get to mingle with the celebs and take some photos with Jeff and Cindy.

Last year players had to donate $300 to the Conine Clubhouse in order to secure their seat, while people who just wanted to watch could donate $100. For their donation they got entry into the tournament and some food and drink to keep them going through the evening.

Each year, Jeff and some of his celebrity friends and former players donate some memorabilia to the event. Those in attendance get to bid for these items through a live auction while some are reserved for a silent auction.

How much money does it raise?

Overall, the poker classic raises a minimum of $100,000 every year for the running of Conine’s Clubhouse. But believe it or not, Jeff isn’t done with that. He also runs the Conine Golf Classic, which this year raised an incredible $262,000 for the Clubhouse. That’s a phenomenal figure and all of it donations from kind folks and businesses.

Amazingly, although the poker classic has only been running for eight years (this year will be the ninth event) Jeff has actually been running the golf classic for even longer. The 2020 classic was the 26th, which in itself is a pretty incredible achievement. Imagine all of the planning and event organization that goes into both of these events, and Jeff and Cindy are very much a part of it all.

We have to say, hats off to Jeff for going the extra mile to make sure that families in need have a place to stay during what must be one of the most worrying times of their lives. The very fact that Jeff’s work makes sure that these families have one less thing to worry about makes it all worthwhile. And to imagine, some people still think poker isn’t worth playing.

Jeff isn’t the only famous athlete to use the game of poker to raise money for a good cause. The MLB Players Association Trust hosts a charity poker event in Las Vegas, while Yasel Puig of LA Dodgers fame also runs a charity poker event for his Wild Horse Foundation. It seems that poker is the perfect game to encourage people to get their wallets out and donate to a good cause while having a lot of fun at the same time.

If you’re interested in attending the next Jeff Conine Poker Classic, then keep an eye on the Jeff Conine Classic website for news of the 9th event to be held this coming August.