Ben Affleck is best known for his acting career, which started when he was just a child, taking dram classes with Matt Damon, who would become a lifelong friend. He secured roles in several television series and movies throughout his teens, before venturing into feature films in 1993 with Dazed and Confused. A friendship with Kevin Smith led to roles in various independent films such as Mallrats and Chasing Amy, which achieved renown at the Sundance film festival.
Tired of being turned down for roles in major films, Affleck and Damon wrote a script. With the help of Kevin Smith, that script got accepted by Miramax, allowing the two young actors the control they desired. That script turned into the 1997 movie Good Will Hunting and launched the two relatively unknown actors to Hollywood stardom. Since then, Affleck’s acting career has gone from strength to strength. He has played lead roles in several blockbuster films and been lauded with numerous awards, including at both the BAFTAs and the Oscars.
Outside of his acting career, Ben Affleck is often to be found in the casino playing blackjack and poker. His love of real-money card games is legendary in many circles and has earned him a certain notoriety. In 2014, he was infamously banned from the Hard Rock Casino. Casino owners spotted the fact that Affleck was able to memorise the cards dealt while playing blackjack. While having a great memory is not illegal, casinos often ban players for counting cards. Affleck had previously won $800,000 at the same casino playing blackjack.
Poker for a good cause
In April 2020, Ben Affleck teamed up with the organisation Feeding America to launch an online celebrity poker tournament to raise funds. Feeding America is the United States’ largest organisation for hunger relief, providing over 40 million meals to people in need each year.
The tournament was live streamed on Twitch and featured an all-star line-up of celebrity poker players, including actors, comedians and a variety of other famous performers. Affleck and friend Matt Damon were joined by stars such as Tobey Maguire, Adam Sandler, Sarah Silverman, Adam Levine, Jason Bateman, John Hamm, Tom Brady and Bryan Cranston. Famous poker players were also invited, with famous poker players such as Jason Koon, Phil Hellmuth, Doyle Brunson, Luke Schwartz, Alex Foxen and Tom Cannuli joining the celebrities at the tables.
The high-profile, high-stakes event was billed as All-In For Feeding America and the game played was No Limit Texas Hold’Em, one of the most popular variations of poker in the world. The buy-in was set at $10,000 per player and rebuys were allowed up to a certain point. Around $2 million was raised from the event, with all proceeds going directly to food banks across America. The overall winner was Ebony Kennedy of Thirst Lounge.
Affleck’s other charity work
Affleck has been a long-time supporter of Feeding America. In 2016, he joined Ellen DeGeneres to launch the Small Change Campaign, which urged the people of America to donate their small change to the organisation to help fund food banks.
In 2008, Ben Affleck directed a short film exploring the humanitarian crisis in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. This film was utilised as a public service announcement as part of the campaign by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to raise awareness of the human rights violations taking place in the DRC. Affleck made many trips to the DRC before and after shooting this film, focusing on gaining a deeper understanding of causes of conflict and solutions.
In 2010, the Eastern Congo Initiative was founded by Ben Affleck in response to his extensive research. The ECI is an advocacy and grant-making organisation which aims to work with and invest in people and communities in eastern Congo to deliver sustainable solutions. ECI works on the premise that it is essential to focus on community-based approaches tailored to the local societies, working to increase inward investment for the people.
The Stay Close campaign was devised by PFLAG NYC as a means of raising awareness about LGBT people and promoting tolerance and understanding throughout communities. Ben Affleck featured in Stay Close promotional material alongside his cousin, Jason, in support of the organisation’s message. A series of advertisements featuring well-known celebrities “staying close” to their LGBT relatives and friends helped to reduce bigotry and increase acceptance.
The philanthropic endeavours of Ben Affleck range far and wide. The actor is a recognised supporter of cancer charity the Jimmy Fund, and in 2003 bid $50,000 at auction for a license plate featuring the retired number of Bobby Doerr, No.1, in support of the charity. In 2013, Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner encouraged donations to the A-T Children’s Project by promising to match all donations up to $25,000. The A-T Children’s Project raises funds for life-saving research into ataxia-telangiectasia.
Affleck has always striven to be the best in every aspect of his life, be that acting, playing cards or working to raise money and awareness for good causes. Most recently, the Omaze website announced a competition to win dinner with Ben Affleck and Matt Damon, with all entry fees contributed directly to the Eastern Congo Initiative. Affleck is an outspoken advocate for human rights and gives his all to each cause he takes on board, be that feeding the poor in his own country or preventing human rights violations overseas.