Championship Day 1: Interview with Matt Stout

SHRPO EV20 Champion DSC_4497

Matt Stout (left) poses with David Somers (right), the winner of the CSOP event at SHRPO.

Last night the Seminole Hard Rock hosted a Charity Series of Poker event that raised over $33,000 for the Habitat for Humanity charity thanks to a record-breaking turnout of 232 players. The CSOP was started by Matt Stout, and we caught up with him during the charity event pre-party last night. Stout filled us in on the origins of the CSOP and how he has grown the tour. He also discussed organizing the CSOP event hosted here at the Seminole Hard Rock last night.

On his first involvement with charity work: “I started getting involved with Habitat for Humanity when I was seventeen. My brother was the president of the Johns Hopkins chapter of Habitat for Humanity. That was my first real knowledge of a charity, what really goes on, and what the goal is for what they’re doing. I got really involved with Habitat, and everything my brother and Johns Hopkins were doing for Habitat of Baltimore in Sandtown, which is a really economically-depressed area. They built a lot of houses in the same area and really revitalized the area. They’re vetting all of the Habitat house owners so they are people that really deserve to be helped by Habitat. I saw all of that and really got excited about everything they were doing, how much fun it was to go out there. I saw some work sites, and then I got more involved with the work sites in New Jersey. Two year later I ended up becoming the VP of Habitat for Humanity at my college, The College of New Jersey.”

On using poker tournaments to aid charities: “That was two years before I started playing poker for a living, but I was already starting to get the poker bug. It was right after I learned how to play. When I was VP, as a fundraising project I decided we should run a $10 re-buy tournament. I got prizes donated for the top three by the company my Dad was working for. I was just hustling when I was 19 trying to raise some money for Habitat. I ran it in one of the dorms where there was five floors with the same lounge. So as tournament director I was running up and down the stairs the entire time, making sure everything was OK. It was a step tournament if you will [laughs]. I think we got four or five tables on five floors, and I think we raised $900 for Habitat. So it was always in the back of mind when I started playing poker for a living that I wanted to do something out on the tour. I noticed that there weren’t that many charity events being run out on the tour that coincided with big events on the tour. It’s a missed opportunity because there are so many people in poker willing to help the cause, but they’re not going to organize it themselves because they have so many things going on. I saw an opportunity where I could set things up and then players could come and have fun, drink, and play in the tournament for charity.”

On how he chooses charities for CSOP events: “I wanted to start this to help Habitat for Humanity and other great causes. Other ones I’m considering for the future are St. Judes, Doctors Without Borders, and dog shelters. I keep it open because there might be a group of celebrities or certain casinos that want to run it for a particular cause. I like to be able to vet the causes, and I often volunteer with the charity before I ever run an event for them. The first CSOP event was last year. It was a $300 buy-in event with $100 re-buys at Planet Hollywood for the Three Square Food Bank Las Vegas. We raised $14,605 for the food bank. Which was great, but I was a little disappointed because I’m always shooting for the stars. So this year when we ran the same event and raised $42,000 for a 180-190 percent increase, it was a really good sign for things to come. I’m having a lot of fun running these things. We legitimately do have a blast in these events, and it’s taking on a life of its own. It’s not so much my thing that I’m really pressing people to show up for and support anymore. People are getting excited for the events, it’s what I expected.”

On running this recent event with the Seminole Hard Rock: “I have always loved the Hard Rock properties. They have been working on building up the SHRPO series a lot, and really trying to cement themselves as one of the main staples on the tour in the U.S. They’re doing a great job with it, and I knew they would be interested in tying this in and having a big opening event with a pre-party that kicks off the SHRPO main events. They’ve just gotten behind it like no other venue has. Without me even asking, they just called me up and told me they’re adding $25,000 in prizes to the event. They have been unbelievable and really have gotten behind it. They go above and beyond what I expected and what I was hoping for in terms of the support I would get. Between this being an event for Habitat, which is the closest charity to my heart, and the one that really got me started in charity work, I’m also honored to work with these guys and the way that they operate and handle everything for me. They really take a lot of the pressure off me and do a lot of things for me that I have to do at other charity events. It’s been an incredible experience working with these guys and seeing everything they’re willing to do to help out the charity.”