High-rollers get charitable for sick kids

WHEN you’re trying to win chips off your opponents at the poker table, charity’s the last thing on your mind. That would particularly be the case if you were slinging chips around in the cardroom of Les Ambassadeurs casino in Mayfair, which hosts the biggest (by which I mean highest stakes) poker games in Europe.

There’s often over £1m at play here – I once met a Wall Street hedge fund mogul whose hobby is to hop over to London for a couple of days at a time just to play at “Les A”, as regulars call it – and it’s about the plushest poker environment most folk will never see.

However, there was nothing at play there but goodwill and some strangely huge poker chips (it’s that exclusive – even its chips are bigger) when the gaming and business communities got together for a good cause last month. Black ties were donned and deep pockets delved in aid of Great Ormond Street children’s hospital.

Ladbrokes CEO Richard Glynn, Irish billionaire and former City airport owner Dermot Desmond, PR overlord Matthew Freud and gaming entrepreneur Dermot Smurfit were a few of the names gathered – along with invited gaming industry insiders, hedgies, bankers, bettors and, er, Barbara Windsor – to launch Raising the Stakes, an initiative generating funds for a new facility in the hospital’s cardiac unit.

Raising the Stakes has already raised four fifths of its £500,000 initial target, of which £270,000 was raised on the night. Next year it’ll be coming to the City – no doubt in equally opulent style – with an event to coincide with the Cheltenham races. Whoever said gamblers weren’t generous?

Timothy Barber

For more information on Raising the Stakes see www.gosh.org/raisingthestakes

For information on Les Ambassadeurs, visit www.lesambassadeurs.com