Actor Kevin Pollak has played in the World Series of Poker since 2012. During his first effort, he made a surprising Day 5 run and put up a 134th-place finish to make him the highest-finishing celebrity in post-boom main event history. He returned last year and exited before the money, disappointed with his result. Pollak loves poker, plays in a home game and loves the main-event experience, but like anyone else, putting up the $10,000 isn't always the easiest thing to do. Yes, he's an actor with a keen eye on his budget.
Pollak's sponsor over the past two years was Hollywood Poker. After some managerial changes at that company, his sponsorship opportunity was no longer on the table. He searched elsewhere for the buy-in and had some small bites and some big leads. Nothing progressed. Just a week before the start of the main event, Pollak was sponsor-less and despite wanting to play more than anything, odds were minimal that he'd find his way back to the Rio this summer.
He made one last-ditch effort. He sent a tweet.
Lost my sponsor for #WSOP Main Event. Any biz that wants a few 100k of tv time w/ me wearing your logo for my 10k buy-in, DM me.
— Kevin Pollak (@kevinpollak) July 2, 2014
Pollak has 336,000 followers. It was a shot in the dark that anyone would respond, and if someone did respond, it was questionable just how serious he'd actually be. He simply hoped that something would pan out.
He received only one response from his Tuesday tweet. Pollak was thrilled.
It was from Chuck Fried, the president of TxMQ, a premiere business partner with IBM for more than 20 years. The company, located in Buffalo, N.Y., has never advertised on TV. It's never endorsed a celebrity. It doesn't typically use its marketing budget for exposure. Fried doesn't even follow the poker industry. Despite that, Fried replied and the two set up a call.
The following day, Pollak and Fried chatted. Pollak explained the exposure play and the potential for TxMQ getting its logo in front of television cameras and on a wide spectrum of digital media. He told them he'd provide them with live reads during his Kevin Pollak Chat Show, a digital interview initiative that features the stars of Hollywood. Then Fried dropped the bomb: They had two hours to finalize the deal as he was heading off on vacation for the long weekend.
"At the start of the call I felt he was hesitant," said Pollak just before the start of Day 1B. "I felt like I had a 10 percent chance of it happening."
Fried said he looked up Pollak and was impressed with his accomplishments. Pollak said he looked up Fried to see whether his company was legitimate. Due diligence was important for both sides, but Fried also had to convince those at his company that this was the right move. That wasn't easy, but over the next two hours everyone was on board and the two worked out a deal. Shirts were shipped, the cash was wired and Pollak's lawyer had written up the contract. Essentially out of nowhere, Pollak was heading to the main event.
The amazing part of the story remains the slim chances of Fried even seeing the tweet. He follows 154 people on the social network, and the odds that a president of a company is scrolling through Twitter at just that time seems like a two-outer.
Pollak is seated inside the Amazon Room at one of the featured tables. He has a rail of fans and a constant flood of other players, including those at his table, coming up to take pictures with him. One tweet did all of this. Now what are you going to post today?
"I feel like I've already won," said Pollak. "This is an exciting day, and I can't thank them enough."