On Saturday, May 17th in the Caesars Palace poker room in Las Vegas, the Poker For Hope charity tournament took place, benefiting Tia’s Hope, The Life Raft Group, and Phase One Foundation. Poker for Hope was started by these three non-profit cancer support organizations with ONE goal in mind…A CURE!

Poker for HopeThe first 100 poker players who registered early participated in a private VIP Celebrity Improv Show at Cleopatra’s Barge the night before the tournament. Starring Camryn Manheim of Ghost Whisperer, Willie Garson of White Collar, Larmorne Morris of New Girl, Kevin McHale of GLEE, and Sara Rue of Rules of Engagement, it provided an opportunity to socialize before the big event. The players also received ticket vouchers to attend the Friday night performance of Absinthe at Caesars Palace, which were generously donated by the hotel.

The Poker for Hope event was hosted by professional poker player and former professional magician, Antonio Esfandiari, who also provided a private poker lesson to the players before the tournament started. There were 115 participants at the tournament. Cast members from Absinthe and stars of the VIP Celebrity Improv Show, served as celebrity guests at the tournament.

The first place winner was Steve Solaka. Other winners included Andrea Stanford, Gary Satin, Paul Alanis and Jeff Tahler. The event garnered almost $165K which was divided among the three organizations.

The Life Raft group is appreciative of the very generous support of Caesars Palace. The event wouldn’t have been a success without them. We also thank our sponsors who included: Four of a Kind- $15,000: Rock Mafia; Full House – $10,000: Natixis; Flush – $5K: Robert Brkich Construction Corporation, Carpets and More, Daltile and Marazzi. We also thank Jess Ravich (founder of Tia’s Hope), Jerry Cudzil (LRG’s Board President), and Lissa Zanville (Executive Director of Phase One) for all of their hard work in making this event a huge success!

Events like Poker for Hope are inspired by the courage of all those who are fighting cancer. One story of courage comes from Jess Ravich, the founder of one of the event sponsors, Tia’s Hope.

A Tribute to Tia Palermo Tia’s Story by Jess Ravich

On March 29, 2012, after 11 years of fighting cancer, my lovely, loving and beloved wife of 23 years, Tia, passed away. She died as she had lived – with dignity and grace and on her own time schedule. And, as in life, she died on her own terms – at home surrounded by her four daughters, family and friends.

tiaShe woke for a little while on Monday the 26th and we arm wrestled, as we had in the past. In all the years we’ve been together I never won. Usually it was because she was stronger, but other times I just let her win. She still had strength and won the first bout. She then grabbed my hand again for a re-match and pulled my arm so I would win. She then took her fingers and with a significant amount of effort, she signaled OK. I could read everything in to that gesture or nothing, I choose to read everything. We had a unique relationship, unconventional for sure but it was a true love story.

She was an amazing person and everyone she touched is the better person for meeting her. We will all miss her and we will be sad for her not being in our lives, but at the same time we need to honor her memory and her struggle to stay with us over the last 11 years. She was determined to see her daughters become young women and no mother could have been prouder of her children than Tia was of Zoe, Rae, Ede and Ava. No matter how much she loved me, her family or friends (or even her cats), we all took a backseat by a far margin to her love for our daughters.

Over the last few months of her life, her family flew in from all over the country and they were a source of not only comfort but strength to her. She appreciated each and every visit and always asked me after her siblings had left about how soon they could return, as she began to miss them even as they were driving away.

We were fortunate to have my brother and his family so close by. Tia loved the fact that every Tuesday and Thursday our “fifth child” would be in the house for dinner and homework and on our equivalent to Shabbat dinner (lobsterfest Friday) we had the added benefit of Kate coming over. In addition, I don’t know what I would have done without my brother to lean on during the last year.

And then there are her friends. Too many to count and their love was limitless. She loved, admired, respected and just had a good time with her girlfriends. Whether they were her childhood friends from back east, her girls from the hood, her village school moms, her golden door friends, her phase one friends, her photo shop friends or just her “shop” friends, she loved you all. She had more categories of friends than I have friends. I would come home from work and invariably some girlfriend was over visiting. They could be in the kitchen cooking, in the gym stretching, in the media room for movie afternoons, in her office laying out some photo design, in the back yard just enjoying the ocean or when she got sick, even laying on my side of the bed planning phase one events. Our home will be empty without her presence.

Tia had two basic speeds/moods during her life – happy and pissed off. She was rarely just sad. If something upset her, she got angry and did something about it. She wasn’t one to just sit back and let the sadness wallow over her. She was a woman of action.

More often than not, though, she was happy. And her happiness was infectious. It is with this thought in mind that her family and friends will remember her.

Tia’s memory lives on via the cancer support organization – Tia’s Hope. TIA’S HOPE was founded in honor of Tia Palermo (1959-2012). To learn more about this organization click here.