The Sporting Life at GBK’s Pre-ESPYs Poker Party

Photo courtesy of GBK

Gilles Marini.

Jocks partied before the ESPY Awards at the fabulous GBK Pre-Awards event. The sports themed affair featured impressive luxury lifestyle sponsors assembled at the Andaz Hotel on Sunset. The highlight was a lively poker tournament benefitting worthy charities, hosted by GBK founder Gavin Keilly. He oversaw the “card party” that pitted professional poker players against athletes and stars.

Always a good sport, Gilles Marini tried to keep a poker face, but the Switched at Birth star and Dancing with the Stars alumnus was having too much fun. It was funny to overhear NFL and NBA players asking Gilles about what it takes to be a DWTS all-star, because athletes really like to strut their stuff on the Emmy-nominated show.

Among the very competitive athletes, baseball’s Jose Canseco bragged he was great at Texas Hold’em, but he ran out of chips. Actor Mekhi Phifer, of ER fame, was a serious contender, but lost out to professional card player Tim Phan. With the help of participating sponsors, “one-hundred percent of the tournament proceeds were donated to the charities,” announced Keilly. And participants got some great gifts too. Phan walked away with an opulent watch from the exclusive shop Jason of Beverly Hills. Actor Andy Milonakis was thrilled with his second place prize, a dreamy Technogel Mattress, which was on display and received praise from the jocks testing it for support. Seen plopping on the bed were NFL pros Terrell Owens (Bengals), Mercedes Lewis (Jaguars), Terrell Thomas (Giants), Rob Jackson (Redskins), Aldon Smith (49ers), and Olympic volleyball star Lindsey Berg. They also went wild over the comfy Fruit of the Loom Big & Tall collections.

Also fashion forward was the Marena Group’s Athletics8™, which has “comfort weave” fabric for their high performance athletic and shapewear. Experts told me, “it’s like skin, only better,” with the compression apparel improving performance and reducing soreness when working out. Helping folks stay fit was Nutrition53, a nutrition company founded by NFL Super Bowl champ Bill Romanowski. And Wild Soul Sunglasses were there to help the stars look ultra-cool.

Sparkling Hill Resort was promoting its European-inspired wellness facility that was designed with Swarovski crystal elements. There were vintage arcade games from “Dazadi, the home of awesome.” More awesomeness came from MHL, a high-tech way to play mobile games or videos on big screens. An interchangeable LED watch from Fly Watches was a colorful accessory. Trend-setting athletic products were featured by SKLZ, a leader in sports skill development; and iLinks had “smart golf clubs” allowing users to view the flight of their ball on a smart phone app. More technology was featured by Negris Lebrum Clothing’s stylish wireless MP3 headphones.

Enjoying Chambord drinks, among the VIP guests were Michael Vartan, Alias; Roger Cross, Mad Money; David Anders, Once Upon A Time; Sean Patrick Flanery, Dexter; and Laura Govan from Basketball Wives and her ex-NBA honey Gilbert Arenas, who went to Grant High in Valley Glenn, and now plays b-ball for China. Sports stars included Trey Burke, Utah Jazz Point Guard nominated for ESPY’s Best Male College Athlete, with Jazz teammate Demarre Carroll; Kyla Ross, Olympic gymnastics gold medalist, who got an ESPY nod for Best Team; another ESPY star, sporting his Super Bowl ring was James Ihedigbo from the Baltimore Ravens.

A couple of Laker Girls were there bouncing to the beats played by 10-year-old DJ Baby Chino. And GBK always puts the spotlight on charitable organizations, including the LA Lakers Youth Foundation and the Model Citizen Fund, which helps rebuild lives. The Giving Back Fund was on hand with The Mama Sarah Obama Foundation (Barack’s granny), which is planning an October 5 gala. They were grateful for a sizable donation from Ike’s Love & Sandwiches, oh so tasty too.

When I met a couple of handsome sailors with Bands for Arms, I discovered a great family business that offers handmade bracelets made from old, donated uniforms from all military branches. Volunteers, service members, and their dependents make the bracelets, and half the sale price is returned to a nonprofit to support our military. Bless them.

Good people, great sponsors, and GBK’s tradition of mixing charity with celebrity marketing made for an entertaining day with jocks on parade.

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