Combining Friends, Family & Poker to Fund Cancer Research

It’s Wednesday night in New York. What do you do?  If you’re Michele and Drew Figdor, you combine your love of entertaining and poker with supporting a good cause.

What initially started in 2004 as a cocktail party to benefit the Prevent Cancer Foundation is now an annual Bad Beat on Cancer® poker tournament hosted by Michele and Drew. A terrific event, with a lot of what I would call the “usual suspects”–family, friends (new and old), colleagues, and a couple of poker pros thrown in for good measure.

On December 1, they all crowded into the Astra Restaurant, on the 14th floor of the D&D Building on Third Avenue, to play a little poker with poker pro and Foundation board member Phil Gordon, who acted as the tournament MC.

While it’s clearly a New York event – the view of the New York skyline from the room is amazing–I loved the excitement in the room; at times during the night, you felt as if you were in Vegas by the way the play ebbed and flowed at the tables.  Players going “all in,” some trying to hold on to their chips, while others lamenting they couldn’t believe they were out already.

(L. to R.) Michele Figdor, Jordan Figdor, tournament winner Jon Mittelhauser, Phil Gordon and Drew Figdor.

All 80 players opened their hearts (and wallets), raising $117,000 to fund a two-year grant in ovarian cancer prevention and/or early detection research. Adding to the player’s generosity and the excitement of the night was Phil and Drew’s spur of the moment decision to match every dollar raised during a double re-buy period that raised $15,000. Phil and Drew split the amount with each donating another $7,500.

Previous tournaments have funded research grants in colorectal cancer in memory of Michele’s grandmother who died of colon cancer—in her house—when Michele was 9 years old.  Since then, Michele has witnessed her aunt’s battle against ovarian cancer and her mother’s fight against, and triumph over, uterine cancer. It’s always wonderful to see Michele’s mother Leslie each year–what a lovely lady.

Seven years ago when Phil and Rafe Furst (another poker pro and Foundation board member) suggested raising money by playing poker, some were skeptical. What kind of people would it bring to the Foundation?

Well, we’ve seen what kind of people; individuals from just about every walk of life–most touched by cancer in some way. Like Michele and Drew, they play with a commitment to fund cancer prevention research so individuals and families never experience the devastation of the disease.

Thank you Michele and Drew–you are certainly two of a kind.