By Timothy Cox
Plans have been finalized for a no-limit, Texas Hold'em poker tournament sponsored by the Auglaize & Mercer Counties Convention & Visitors Bureau (CVB).
The tournament -- which will award a top prize of $25,000 -- is set for May 26-29, Memorial Day weekend. Poker players can enter the tournament for $55; all sessions will be played at the Auglaize-Mercer Counties Family YMCA facility near Celina.
Profits from the tournament will benefit the YMCA.
Organizers are billing the top prize as a seat in a poker tournament in Las Vegas, but the winner will be able to take the cash without entering the larger event.
"Everybody's pumped about this," said Larry Stelzer, who serves on the boards of trustees of the CVB and the YMCA. "This is a case of the CVB thinking outside the box to get people into the area." CVB officials first started looking at a poker tournament as a way to draw people into the area during the off-peak travel season. Earlier dates in the spring did not work out, so CVB officials settled on Memorial Day weekend. If the tournament is successful, CVB officials plan to consider a second event in the fall.
Reece's Las Vegas Supplies, Dayton, will organize the tournament, supplying staff, cards, chips and other equipment.
"We're looking forward to it," said Dale Rockwell, who manages tournaments for Reece. "We understand there are a lot of card players up there. We've never done an event in that area; it should be fun."
Local players can enter the tournament by calling Reece's at 1-800-722-9232. Registration eventually will be available online at www.reecesonline.com.
Organizers are not limiting participation and more than 500 players are expected to play. Prizes will be awarded to at least the top 20 finishers. Even second place should be worth several thousand dollars, Rockwell said.
The top price is supposed to be a seat in the World Series of Poker, a tournament that has become wildly popular in recent years because of extensive television coverage. There had been some confusion among CVB officials about whether the top prize would be a seat in the World Series of Poker or the World Poker Tour.
Reece officials said this morning they deal almost exclusively with the World Series of Poker.
The 36th annual World Series of Poker runs June 2-July 15 at the Rio, Las Vegas. More than 5,000 players are expected to vie for more than $50 million in total prize money.