Hank Azaria turns his backyard into a giant poker room

Two of my passions happily collided Saturday when the television and poker worlds gathered at Hank Azaria’s home for a charity tournament.John hamm1

Benefitting the Geffen Playhouse and Determined to Succeed — an initiative sponsored by Azaria that’s dedicated to providing low socio-economic students with comprehensive year-round academic and enrichment support — the tourney was a rousing success. More than $220,000 was raised.

Among the 170 players entered were a handful of poker pros and a group of actors who clearly know when to hold ‘em or fold ‘em. Jon Hamm, Ben Affleck, Don Cheadle, Paul Rudd, Kevin Pollak, Richard Kind and are clearly as comfortable on the felt as they are in front of a camera.

Hamm, just back from Cannes where he was touting his girlfriend Jennifer Westfeldt’s film “Friends With Kids,” and Cheadle made the final two tables. The winner was poker novice Rich Sondheimer, who was playing in only his second tournament.

Gil cates1 With several poker dealers in town from Vegas — event was sponsored by the Tropicana, which just invested $180 million for a hotel renovation — the tourney lasted about nine hours.

Azaria, flanked by Geffen producing director Gil Cates and Pollak, is appearing on NBC this fall in Jon Enbom’s laffer “Free Agents” and was a gracious host. At the beginning of the day, he kidded that if all the rumors that the world was about to come to an end at 4 o’clock due to the Rapture were true, the chip leaders at the time could divide the prize money in heaven.

Never happened. Sondheimer was Earthbound when he took home the grand prize: A seat to the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas worth $10,000.