Blogs and other news websites such as this site and others have regularly talked about the NFL's policy against their players engaging in gambling in most forms. The NFL feels that players putting themselves in that element potentially exposes them to people that would try and use them to fix games. However, there is one form of gambling that the NFL has lately turned a blind eye to and that is players who participate in poker tournaments geared towards charity.
Some of you out there may argue that poker is not a form of gambling and that it is a skill game. When we talk about poker as a form of gambling, we are using the definition that the NFL and lawyers would use and that is a game that has an element of chance. Poker would still qualify as such as the outcome of each hand is not known prior to the hand, regardless of the skill of the players involved.
Several NFL players participate in charity poker tournaments as a way to give back to the community. Charlie Batch of the Pittsburg Steelers holds an annual event that allows its participant to play in either poker, pool, or ping pong with celebrities and NFL players. It is the "In the Pocket" event and it benefits his Best of the Best Foundation. The foundation was setup as a way to provide literacy programs for both youths and adults.
Another annual event that NFL players participate in is the Tyler's Team Charity Poker Classic benefiting the Tyler McLellan Foundation. The foundation supports youth sports in southern Florida and Tampa Bay Buc's James Lee and Errict Rhett are regular participants in the event. Other various NFL players have played in the event as well over the last couple of years.
The big difference between the two events listed above and your typical gambling games found in casinos is that the charity events mentioned do not pay out actual cash prizes to participants. The money collected at the beginning of the event goes entirely to the charity and prizes awarded to the final table or winners or the events are non-cash prizes that have been donated by other groups.
Since there are no cash prizes up for grabs, the potential influence by gambling debt collectors, bookies, and other unsavory elements is all but eliminated. As such, the NFL has decided to bend their rules and allow players to participate. It is great to see the NFL allow players to show their support for these charitable causes and hopefully more players will take advantage of this in the near future.