This Pro Poker Player Will Match Your Giving To 10 Effective-Altruism-Endorsed Charities

From stopping malaria to bailing people out of jail, poker player Dan Smith will match $1 million in donations for the charities he thinks have the potential to do the most good for the least money.

This Pro Poker Player Will Match Your Giving To 10 Effective-Altruism-Endorsed Charities
[Photo: Keenan Constance/Unsplash]

Philanthropy’s biggest crux is pretty universal: No matter how much people give to charitable causes, it won’t ever be enough. The world has a lot of problems; many needs will continue to go unmet without broader, systemic change.


For a growing contingent of so-called effective altruists, that paradox means using some math and logic to calculate what they think is the most strategic way to positively affect the most lives for the fewest dollars spent. Professional poker player Dan Smith likes that logic, so he’s sweetening the pot.

Smith, the fourth-ranked player in the world, has cleared about $20 million in winnings on the professional circuit. Between now and the end of the year, he and two other poker and fantasy sports icons, the brothers Martin and Tom Crowley, have promised to match up to $1 million in donations toward 10 cost-effective charities.

“I like the idea of reminding people that one person can make a difference,” he says in an email to Fast Company.

Like a good logician, Smith shares more about the proven success of each solution in a post on his personal blog. The first four are also some of the top picks of 2017 by charity effectiveness evaluator GiveWell, while others have been vetted by other effective-altruism researchers that share data, like Animal Charity Evaluators, and the Open Philanthropy Project.

Here’s the full list:

Against Malaria Foundation: Nearly a half million people annually still die of this mosquito-transmitted disease. This group provides insecticide-treated bed nets to areas in need.


Schistosomiasis Control Initiative: Intestinal parasites in unclean water hurt 258 million people annually. SCI delivers deworming pills that can radically improve quality of life.

Give Directly: The group’s primary mission is to provide free cash transfers directly to the extremely poor in the developing world, a concept they’re now also trying to apply to disaster relief.

Hellen Keller International’s Vitamin A Supplementation Program: Vitamin-A deficiency affects 250 million kids in Africa. These cheap supplements hedge against that, reducing the chance of blindness and death.

Machine Intelligence Research Institute: This nonprofit analyzes the risks and ways to hedge against unintended issues that might arise from artificial intelligence.

The Good Food Institute: The processes and pollution associated with modern meat, egg, and dairy production hurts animals and the planet. GFI supports cleaner, meat-free alternatives.

The Animal Welfare Fund: This grant program backs animal welfare groups, especially for farming. For many in the effective altruism community, improving “lives” goes beyond just humans.


Massachusetts Bail Fund, Brooklyn Bail Fund, Just City: All three of these are bail funds, which help post bond for low-level offenders without the cash to do so. That allows them to continue their lives and often avoid strict, unfair sentences.

“The basic idea is that there are a lot of people held on bail in misdemeanor cases where if they were out they could fight the case, but to get out of jail they take pleas and get criminal records,” Smith says on his blog. “This can have all sort of collateral consequences”–from job loss to unfinished school or missed housing payments–“and thus contributes to the widening socioeconomic gap in the U.S.”

It’s the fourth year for this charity drive, which last year raised a total of $1.7 million. For more info on how to give and ensure your donation is matched, go here.

About the author

Ben Paynter is a senior writer at Fast Company covering social impact, the future of philanthropy, and innovative food companies. His work has appeared in Wired, Bloomberg Businessweek, and the New York Times, among other places.