IN THE WAKE OF DEFLATEGATE, when no amount of double-entendre ball-fondling jokes could sate the nation’s untoward appetite, the state of Arizona pumped as much enthusiasm as possible into Super Bowl XLIX. It all worked out well for Bill Belichick, Tom Brady, and the New England Patriots, but with University of Phoenix Stadium located near a few goats and chickens on the outskirts of Glendale, there was much to be desired in the way of extravagant parties within walking distance of the big game. You had to venture a fair few miles off campus to find the good ones—like the three-day bender ALL IN put together at a picturesque Paradise Valley estate built by railroad magnate Kern Schumacher.
Thirteen miles east of the online-degree-sponsored football venue, ALL IN whipped out an impressive sack of tricks for its Super Bowl Oasis & Ultimate Tailgate benefiting the 501 c3 ALL IN Cause. Select invitees found entertainment on par with the game itself in the form of live musical performances, top shelf liquor, and, of course, poker.
On Friday night, The Roots delivered a rousing set to those lucky enough to gain entry to this intimate performance. The Tonight Show band didn’t skimp on classics, busting out everything from “Proceed” to the Erykah Badu collaboration “You Got Me.” Damon “Tuba Gooding Jr.” Bryson flexed his impressive brass sousaphone while intermingling with the audience, and actor/comedian Craig Robinson popped up on stage for some brief cavorting. Other notables under the white tent included actor Mekhi Phifer, Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Mark Sanchez, and Arizona Diamondbacks GM Dave Stewart. And when the music stopped, the action continued with a high-stakes $20,000-per-flip game of heads or tails that may have involved one of the pro athletes in attendance and one of the founders of ALL IN.
Saturday night brought poker pros such as Layne Flack and Tiffany Michelle to a $1,000 buy-in No Limit Hold ’Em charity tournament emceed by Phil Hellmuth and hosted by Phil Ivey’s Ivey League. Decathlete Dan O’Brien, former Marvel Studios Chairman David Maisel, MTV on-air personality Sway, Ivey Poker CEO Dan Fleyshman, Big Brother 16 winner Derrick Levasseur, and social media guru Branden Hampton also bought in, with Hampton going deeper than all of the other celebs and finishing third.
At the behest of Hellmuth, most everyone at the final table hemorrhaged multiple buy-ins—notably, Don Cornwell of PJT Partners, poker pro Tim James, and Pala Interactive founder Kasey Thompson—which went directly to three charities: the Durden Foundation, Model Citizen Fund, and Wounded Warrior Foundation. Pala Band of Mission Indians Chairman Robert Smith donated an extra $50,000 to the charity, an amount that was then matched by an anonymous influential figure in the poker community.
Tim James won the tournament and graciously donated his prize—a trip to Phil Ivey’s Las Vegas home to spend 24 hours receiving poker lessons and clubbing with the legend himself—back to ALL IN Cause. Prior to the tournament’s conclusion, several pairs of Beats By Dre headphones made their way in the hands of the participants, from one deemed “best dressed” to one simply labeled “really cool” by Hellmuth. A headset was also given out to the player who knocked “The Poker Brat” out of the tourney.
On Super Bowl Sunday, attention understandably turned to the gridiron. Rob Angel, the creator of Pictionary, and Ashley Kirk, a familiar face (and body) to Playboy readers, were among the smattering of celebs to soak in the game at the next-best viewing venue to the stadium itself. As we all know, Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll brought the weekend’s festivities to an end with one of the worst calls in football history. There was, on the other hand, no second-guessing the decision-making of those who attended the ALL IN Super Bowl Oasis & Ultimate Tailgate.
Cydnee Murray is a freelance writer based in New York. She can be reached at email@example.com.