Poker Players Back Up the Truck for KL Cleeton

  • Cleeton needs to travel to WSOP 2021 in an adapted van because of his spinal muscular atrophy
  • The poker community showed up in a big way during Veronica Brill’s fundraising stream last night
  • The GoFundMe page Brill set up for Cleeton received a huge boost after her Twitch stream
  • Cleeton won a Negreanu competition to play the 2017 WSOP Main Event, cashing for $16k
  • Brill started a GoFundMe page in 2020 to raise $75,000 for “the kind of ride he deserves”
two digitally drawn hands about to touch
Donations from the poker community poured in during Veronica Brill’s Twitch stream to raise funds for a van that will transport KL Cleeton to the 2021 WSOP. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Poker inspiration needs (more) wheels

The poker community showed up in a big way this weekend to support one of their own. The poker player, manager of poker training site Learn Pro Poker, and co-founder of the training app Range Trainer Pro KL Cleeton is an inspirational story in the poker world and a much-loved member of the community. 

Born with a severe form of spinal muscular atrophy, Cleeton is unable to raise his head or sit without support. He describes his condition as “being paralyzed from the neck down but I feel everything”, adding, “my muscles just don’t work. I am able to move my right thumb a very tiny amount and that’s what I use to steer my wheelchair.”

He plans to return to the big dance this year, but to do so he requires a reliable form of transportation.

In 2017, with the help of Daniel Negreanu, KL played and cashed the WSOP Main Event. He plans to return to the big dance this year, but to do so he requires a reliable form of transportation. Because of his condition, KL is unable to fly. A van fitted for his specific needs is what is required to make this happen. 

Spearheading the effort is poker pro and Poker After Dark presenter Veronica Brill, who set up a GoFundMe page for Cleeton. Last night, she organized a hugely successful, star-studded fundraising stream on her Twitch channel:

Negreanu helped Cleeton live the dream 

In 2017, Cleeton came to poker prominence after he won a video contest organized by poker star Daniel Negreanu.

Speaking on The Chip Race poker podcast, Cleeton explained that it never occurred to him to submit a video. He was arm-twisted into doing it by friends in his poker group who thought his hilarious self-effacing schtick would resonate with the wider public. 

he made it to the money, ultimately cashing for $16,000

Cleeton’s friends were right and the video went viral. Negreanu chose him as the winner and, after some transportation hiccups, he lived his dream of playing in the WSOP Main Event. Better yet, with the help of his father who peeled his cards and cut out his bets, he made it to the money, ultimately cashing for $16,000.  

Since then, Cleeton has become a central figure in the poker community, going on podcasts and contributing on the industry side of things with his work with Learn Pro Poker and Range Trainer Pro. Not to mention his hysterical contributions to the poker Twittersphere via his @highhands89 account. 

KL is the Batman 

Last summer, Cleeton was interviewed by Veronica Brill. He told her the story of why he hasn’t played on the live felt since the 2017 WSOP. Accessibility issues in casinos always pose a challenge for people in wheelchairs, but the main problem for Cleeton is getting to Las Vegas, 1,700 miles from his home in Effingham, Illinois. 

Despite being mired in legal drama surrounding the Mike Postle saga at the time, Brill jumped straight into action and launched a GoFundMe campaign to get her friend “the kind of ride he deserves”. Specifically, this was an adapted van augmented with a ramp and lowered floor, or as Jamie Kerstetter put it, “The Bat-Mobile”: 

The money rolled in 

Last night, Brill made huge strides in helping her friend get to the 2021 WSOP, hosting a Twitch stream replete with poker’s most famous faces: 

For four hours, it was a who’s who of the pokerati as Brill and special guests celebrated and roasted Cleeton in equal measure while they all watched the donations fly in. 

Brill herself contributing a massive $10,000 to the fund

Jason Mo dropped a whopping $5,000. Gary Aranovich gave $3,000. Phil Hellmuth donated $2,000. Kevin Rabichow, Bryn Kenney, and Julie Bonnett sent $1,000. Jennifer Tilly and Andrew Neeme threw $500 in the kitty. In total, 196 donations were collected, with Brill herself contributing a massive $10,000 to the fund. 

An anonymous donator pledged $900 for 1% of Danielle Anderson’s WSOP Main Event:

Some really big donations still to be added to the total 

There are many more donations in the pipeline, too. Popular Twitch streamer and Canadian reality show star Kevin Martin donated $500 plus all subs and donations from his Sunday stream, earning some run-good karma in the process:

The drive even brought enemies together as Johnnie Vibes, Doug Polk, and Phil Hellmuth were all singing Kumbaya by the end of the stream: 

No good deed ever went unpunished:

Presuming that Vibes doesn’t get over 5,000 retweets, the biggest donation will come from millionaire hedge fund manager, Die With Zero author, and Poker Santa Claus Bill Perkins, who has pledged $25,000. 

Brill and Cleeton expressed their gratitude 

After the stream, Brill thanked the community and the people who gave their time and money to the cause:

With $35,000 banked plus these other contributions en route, things are looking very promising for the $75,000 target. Understandably, Cleeton was blown away:

Visit the Stack KL GoFundMe page if you too would like to donate.