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Record numbers turn out for Texas Hold ‘em Tournament

Participants test their luck, patience at one-day event

Published: 10:50AM January 31st, 2013
Record numbers turn out for Texas Hold ‘em Tournament

Somer Breeze-Hanson/Northwest Guaridan

Joey Eller, left, folds as Mark Cho, right, raises his bet at the Texas Hold ‘em Tournament at McChord Community Center Saturday.

Poker players understand the game of Texas Hold ‘em requires an element of risk. Sometimes the risk leads to taller stacks of poker chips and other times it can deplete the entire stock.

David Griffin is an avid player and tested his luck early at the Texas Hold ‘em Tournament at the McChord Community Center Saturday. Unfortunately for the JBLM Soldier, it didn’t lead to a payout, but rather sent him home early.

“My mistake is not playing patient,” Griffin said. “I didn’t play patient because of the amount of people here. With risks you either get rewarded or you’re the second one walking out the door.”

The biannual one-day tournament attracted a record number 85 participants, more than double the number in years past. Based on the tournament’s history the event staff thought it would be safe to prepare for 60 players, but members found themselves hustling to set-up more tables and chairs in the Heritage Room to accommodate the large crowd and avoid having to turn people away.

“People are really into playing poker,” McChord Community Center Event Planner Erika Scott-Small said. “This is definitely showing us that.”

The 85 participants were seated around nine poker tables until one by one, they bowed out and just three remained. Matthew Hernandez took the top prize, while John Eller finished second and Ronald Cole took third.

Weekly tournaments are held at JBLM’s Nelson Recreation Center on Lewis Main as well as the Warrior Zone on Lewis North. Warrior Zone supervisor Bill Strock, who organizes the events, said 50 percent of Saturday’s players were from the weekly games.

“I just think there’s a status for young guys with poker,” Strock said. “It’s become the game. Texas hold ‘em is what everybody wants.”

The popularuty of Texas hold ‘em grew through TV exposure, Strock said. The numbers at Saturday’s tournament proved that.

The tournament attracted seasoned players like Griffin, who won the tournament last January, and novices like Derrik Breznicki, who had played just a handful a times. The Soldier said he was there for the mini cheeseburgers and the camaraderie.

Joey Eller won the most recent tournament four months ago but still considers herself an amateur for not playing outside the tournaments. The Air Force spouse joined her husband at the table as just one of a handful of female players.

“There’s not a lot of girls and that makes it very nerve racking,” Eller said.

Eller still went home a winner as her husband finished runner-up.

The McChord Community Center hosts the Texas hold ‘em tournament in January and September. The top three winners receive gift cards.