(Distributed March 13, 2007)
POKER-PLAYING SOLDIERS COMPETE ON WORLD-WIDE STAGE
Poker, it seems, has always been the game of choice for our men and women in the military. I’ve heard many poker stories told by veterans, and war movies often show soldiers relaxing between duties by playing poker.
Fast forward to 2007. The U.S. Army, through its Family and Morale, Welfare & Recreation Command, will crown its first Ultimate Army Texas Hold’em Champion in about three months after a series of 50 qualifying tournaments being held now at installations around the world.
After installation winners are determined, those 50 players will square off in an online championship event to declare the overall winner. Unlike big tournaments on television with tons of cash at stake, the top finishers in this no-limit hold’em event will receive nice prizes and, best of all, bragging rights.
“There is great interest in this,” said Doriann Fengler of Alexandria, Va., coordinating consultant for the FMWRC. “This type of tournament is exactly what our soldiers are demanding. We have a waiting list of installations wanting to participate.”
Army MWR has 37,000 employees worldwide whose mission is to “deliver the highest quality programs and services at each installation — from family, child and youth programs to recreation, sports, entertainment, travel and leisure activities,” according to its Web site.
These services “reduce stress, build skills and self-confidence and foster strong esprit de corps,” the site said. A Texas hold’em tournament fits nicely within those parameters.
Fengler said a lengthy planning process, including four trial-run tournaments last summer, was used “to make sure this is a quality program done completely within Army and community regulations.” For instance, the minimal “entry fee” just covers meals, and there is a “no purchase necessary” option for those who want to skip the meals and just compete.
She said the bases involved have been “very grateful to be a part of this.” She noted that securing primary sponsor Vault, the new energy drink by Coca-Cola, and secondary sponsor Coors Light means “we can give even more support to the programs and have nicer prizes.”
Most of the participating installations are in the United States, but 14 of them are in MWR’s Pacific, Korean and European regions.
Ol’ LuckyDog will get a first-hand look at one of the stateside events. I was asked to volunteer as tournament director for the qualifier on April 14 at the Rock Island Arsenal’s Army installation on an island in the Mississippi River where it flows east-west through the Quad-Cities Area of Illinois and Iowa.
I said yes right away, thinking it will be fun to help with a small tournament. When I learned the organizers expect to fill all 200 available seats, I quickly enlisted the help of longtime friends Peggy Van Zandt and Scott Reed. Both have poker-dealing tournament experience.
At our first on-site planning session last week, Jeff McMahon of the Arsenal Club and his associates convinced us they’re preparing a first-class event. “We’re doing everything we can to make sure players will have a good time,” McMahon said.
Enhancing actual tournament play falls to Peggy, Scott and me. For example, we want to allow for plenty of playability early, so we’ll start each player with $3,000 in chips and blinds of just $25-$50. That should keep most players alive at least until lunch! We’ll also conduct “basic training” for the volunteer dealers.
MWR’s regional marketing director Dorie Hickson expects a capacity turnout, drawing from 6,400 Arsenal Island employees including Department of Defense civilians, 270 active duty military, and more than 25,000 area military retirees and family members.
Poker writers like to point out that the game has gone mainstream with an estimated 60 million players in the United States alone.
Now, poker also has gone red, white and blue on a grand scale.
E-mail your poker questions and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org for use in future columns. To find out more about Russ Scott and read previous LuckyDog Poker columns, visit www.creators.com or www.luckydogpoker.com.
COPYRIGHT 2007 RUSS SCOTT
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