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Poker News: April 7, 2006

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Copyright © 2006 The Brandon Sun

Poker tourneys: You hold’em, they’ll come

We may not have a casino in Brandon, but that doesn’t mean we can’t play poker.

Gamblers donned their best poker faces and put their money on the line last night at the Army, Navy and Air Force Club, which hosted the province’s first licensed Texas Hold’em tournament outside of a casino.

Forty-nine players — all of them men — showed up, plunked down $60 each and matched wits at the popular game, which combines skill and luck.

The real-money tournament is part of a provincial pilot project that grants temporary poker licences to charitable organizations like the ANAF Club.

Officials from the Manitoba Gaming Control Commission were on hand to monitor the tournament.

The MGCC will keep track of the weekly tournaments at the ANAF Club, as well as other charitable games across the province that have received temporary licences under a trial project.

Throughout April and May, as many as 21 charitable organizations will run poker tournaments in Manitoba.

The Minnedosa Golf Club will host a tournament this weekend, and two other charities in Brandon may also run games, pending approval of their licences. The only other places to play real-money games are at casinos, private clubs and home games or online.

Of those, online games are the most popular, but last night’s tournament director Harvey Hjorth said many people prefer playing live games instead of sitting in front of a computer.

“I think the opportunity of playing face to face is unique,” he said. “It’s head-to-head competition. You get to match your skill set against other skill sets.”

The tournament was run by trained volunteers from the Brandon Cloverleafs baseball team who dealt the cards and enforced the rules.

The elimination-style tournament means the game continues until one person wins all the chips.

The winner took home $1,085 last night. Second place paid $603, third place $361, fourth place $241 and fifth place $120. The total payout was 60 per cent of the revenues — much lower than in most casinos and online.

Some players complained that the payout was too low, but others didn’t seem to mind since the proceeds go to charity.

George Ireland, who finished ninth in the tournament, said the payout was “fair” especially compared to other licensed forms of gambling like VLTs.

“Here at least there’s some skill involved,” he said after being knocked out of the game.

George travelled from Souris with his son Brent and some friends to play in the tournament.

He said they plan to be back next Wednesday night, when he expects a bigger crowd.

“I could see next week and the next two weeks being a full house,” he said. “I hope so, at least.”

Former Brandon Mayor Rick Borotsik was among the players last night, and fared pretty well.

Borotsik finished in fourth place, taking home the $241 prize.

The player who knocked him out, Brent Lamb, ended up finishing third.

So how does it feel to beat a former mayor at poker?

“Not bad,” Lamb said after his pair of deuces held up against Borotsik’s ace-eight. “Usually I’m not that lucky.”

Brent Ireland ended up finishing first and taking home the top prize.

He admitted catching a bit of luck throughout the tournament, including on the last hand when he held two sevens and his opponents held two kings.

Statistically speaking, Brent had only about a 20 per cent chance to win that hand. But he pulled it off when a third seven turned up, giving him three of a kind.

“I’ve been playing a lot of poker lately,” he said after the win.

The trial period for charitable poker runs until the end of May. The MGCC will then review how the games went and recommend to the government whether poker should be licensed like other forms of charitable gambling.

Hjorth, for one, hopes that happens.

“We hope this lives through the trial period,” he said. “We really think it’s going to be a good way to get some funds out to the community.”

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