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Howard and Annie's Fantasy Poker Camp

Howard and Annie's Fantasy Poker Camp 0001

A few months ago it was called Howard Lederer's Fantasy Poker Camp. Last month it was called Howard Lederer and Annie Duke's Fantasy Poker Camp. In a recent promotion at Ultimate Bet, it was called Annie Duke's Fantasy Poker Camp. When you're hot, you're hot.

December 1 - 4, 2005. Palms Hotel. 175 "campers." About 10% women. They came from all over the United States and Canada, with a couple from Ireland, and one from Australia. Lots of time for autographs and pictures with the pros, with Annie commanding the bulk of the attention.

Playing background of the participants: beginning to intermediate. Most popular vehicle for poker play: online Texas Hold 'em tournaments.

Howard, Annie, and Marcel Luske provided in-depth seminars. There was a guest appearance from "Dr. Phil" (Gordon) who showed up in a white coat, stethoscope, and had a PowerPoint presentation of terrible poker diseases and remedies.

Dr. Phil warned of the dangers of contracting Minimumbetitits (bets too little), Overbetitis (bets too much), and Hypochondrotellia, reading too much into a player's "tell." He walked around with a prescription pad during Sit 'n' Go play, liberally writing prescriptions when he saw a terrible disease in an early stage. These prescriptions became prized trophies for the campers, who proudly waved them around.

Huck Seed, Andy Bloch, Freddie Deeb, Robert Williamson III, Mike Grasz, Clonie Gowen, and Kristy Gazes showed up to help out with Sit 'n' Go tournaments. The pros showed their hands, explained the logic of their play, and critiqued the play of the campers. Overseeing the action was Matt Savage, Tournament Director of the World Series of Poker.

Brenda Walton of Edmond, Oklahoma won a Hungry Man (the frozen dinners people) promotion. For about 90 days they invited people to enter their email address on a daily basis, giving them that many cumulative chances to win two slots to the camp in a drawing. Brenda, a nonplayer, won, and Bill, a player in the Cherokee casinos at home, came along as well on an expenses paid comp worth about $8,000: two entries to the camp at $3,000 each, three nights at The Palms, and airfare. The first hand of poker, live or online, that Brenda ever played took place at the camp. A couple of times, Bill was on the rail, watching Brenda hang in on the Sit 'n' Go's.

There were several days of Sit 'n' Go tournaments at $50 and $100 buy-ins, and several days of play for serious dough: Howard and Annie distributed $100,000 in prize money to campers in two tournaments. The first one, with a $20,000 top prize, was won by Norman Foxx of Isabel, Oklahoma.

Foxx, a retired rancher, has been playing for about five years, comes to Vegas once a year, and is most comfortable in $4/$8 ring games. In his winning effort, he got down to a low point of $200, turned it around, and busted his last opponent with Aces and Fours to claim the top prize.

"What's he going to do with the money?" he was asked. "Was he going to use it, for example, to play in the World Series of Poker next summer?"

"Nope, I'm going to take the money and run," he replied.

Martin Ramus, an accountant from Toronto is on a roll. Last year he won a Bluff Magazine promotion for a slot in the World Poker Tour Boot Camp at Foxwoods. This year he won another Bluff promotion for a slot in Howard and Annie's gig. He picked up $400 in a Sit 'n' Go, $200 in the first tournament, and $100 in the second. His wife was nearby to scoop up half the winnings each time and head for the malls. She loves her new $100 jeans.

So in addition to poker's own Dr. Phil and a couple other real docs in Howard and Annie's fold, Deborah G. from northern California summed it best when she said, "For 3-1/2 days we were all card-i-ologists."

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