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Poker News: October 28, 2007

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HEADLINE: Poker greats compete at Niagara Falls tournament

Canada's largest casino will showcase some of poker's greatest players this weekend, as the Fallsview Casino in Niagara Falls, Ont., hosts the North American Poker Championship.

"This is really the only tournament we have of this caliber, where we're well into the million dollar range," Greg Medulun, Fallsview Casino's director of public relations, told

The tournament started Friday morning and will wrap up after more than a week of big bets and bust-outs, on Nov. 2.

The winner will walk out with more than $1 million.

The North American Poker Championships, the casino's largest tournament, is the Canadian leg of the World Poker Tour -- a series of international poker tournaments featuring most of the world's professional players.

The WPT plays mostly in the U.S., but holds some tournaments at high-profile international casinos.

WPT Founder and President Steve Lipscomb said the Niagara Falls casino was an ideal location for an event.

"(It) fits perfectly into the WPT picture. Not only is it an amazing property set in the incredible Canadian scenery, but it overlooks one of the great natural wonders of the world," Lipscomb said.

Medulun said hosting a major tournament is a boon for the resort, now only three years old.

"It's certainly a big deal for the property. We look to establish ourselves with credible, well-known brands, and the WPT is certainly that," said Medulun.

"If you're a regular customer who's playing $10 or $15 blackjack ... and happen to turn your head and see some of the bigger names, it's a nice feeling and it builds on your experience. Like going to a hockey game and seeing a former great sitting in the stands," Medulun said.

The tournament, in its second year, has already attracted the attention of some of poker's most notable names.

This year, Daniel Negreanu, actor James Woods and Gavin Smith, WPT's 2006 player of the year, have already confirmed to be cutting cards with local hopefuls for the grand prize.

Toronto-born Negreanu is the WPT's top money winner, with $5,391,585 in tournament winnings. He also won WPT player of the year in 2004, and has been called the one of the best players in history.

"He's certainly the cream of the crop, and he's here," said Medulun.

To play, entrants must pay a $10,000 buy-in, or win a spot through a series of less-expensive tournaments.

Two hundred seats have been won in satellite tournaments attended by more than 14,000 people in recent months.

Last year's champion, Toronto's Soren Turkewitsch, took home more than $1.2 million after qualifying through one such tournament.

Turkewitsch, working three jobs at the time just to get by, almost missed entering the smaller $90 tournament. But after winning it, the first-time player was entered to play through another tournament before eventually qualifying for the North American Poker Championship.

There, he fought through a crowd of nearly 500 players, before winning the $1,225,920 grand prize.

"He was a great story, and we can only hope to duplicate that," Medulun said. "He was a regular guy from Oshawa who qualified via satellite tournament and ends up being not only a finalist -- but a champion who walks out with $1.3 million."

Entry is open until Sunday, but WPT officials expect to well surpass last year's number of 497.

Total cash prize is not established until the exact number of entrants is known, but Medulun says it is guaranteed to be over $1 million.

WPT officials say they usually get an even mix of professional imports and local talent when they play outside of the U.S.

Last year, five of the final six players at the tournament were Canadians, including Turkewitsch.

Sudbury-native Jason Sagle placed second, while fellow Ontarians John Lam and Jim Worth placed third and fourth. Montreal-born Marc Karam was sixth. Each won between $150,000 and $600,000 in prize money.

Fifth-placed John Juanda, born in Indonesia, was the only import to place in the top six, and won $193,000. He was also the only player at the final table with a long money-winning history at WPT events, with over $1 million in tournament winnings.

"It's fantastic from our perspective after being only on the scene after three years, to have guys that are literally household names that you would watch in the evening on the travel channel," Medulun said.

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Article downloaded from the World Wide Web on October 27, 2007

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