Charles Barkley is headed back to the tables in Las Vegas to play in a poker tournament about a month after pledging not to gamble. He says it's all for charity. The former NBA star is scheduled to play in a celebrity poker tournament at the 2008 World Series of Poker on July 2.
The "Ante Up for Africa" event is designed to raise money and awareness for the crisis in the Darfur region of Sudan. More than 300,000 people have died and 2.5 million have been displaced since ethnic warfare began in 2003, according to the U.S. presidential envoy to Sudan.
Players in the poker tournament put up $5,000 to play, and are asked to donate at least half their winnings. The event raised more than $500,000 last year and finished with the top two players agreeing to pool their winnings and donate the full $350,000 to the cause. Of the field of 167, 18 players won money.
Barkley, now an NBA analyst for Tuner Network Television, has pledged to donate all of his winnings to one of the two designated charities if he wins next month, said Sal Petruzzi, a TNT spokesman.
Barkley said on the air during the NBA playoffs he wasn't going to gamble for "the next year or two" after he was sued by a Las Vegas Strip casino in May for failing to pay $400,000 in gambling markers, or loans.
The 45-year-old Barkley repaid his debt to the Wynn Las Vegas casino along with a $40,000 district attorney's fee.
"For right now, the next year or two, I'm not going to gamble," Barkley said afterward. "Just because I can afford to lose money doesn't mean I should do it."
Dallas Mavericks point guard Jason Kidd said this week that Barkley was keeping to his word when he saw him at a May golf tournament in Palm Springs, Calif.
"We were at a casino and he said he was on the wagon," Kidd said during a conference call to promote a celebrity golf tournament. "He's strong. He didn't gamble. I think Charles, once he decides not to do something, I think he's pretty good at keeping his word."
Barkley played 16 NBA seasons for the Philadelphia 76ers, Phoenix Suns and Houston Rockets, and played on the USA Olympic "Dream Team" in 1992 and 1996. He was an 11-time NBA All-Star and league MVP in 1993.
He has talked openly about his gambling, estimating during a May 2006 interview with ESPN that he'd gambled away about $10 million over the years.