The Olympic Games has long been a drawing point for the greatest athletes in the world to gather. From around the world, competitors come together once every four years for the glory of the Games and to challenge each other to see who the best is. There has been some discussion (some tongue in cheek and some more serious) that poker should be a part of the Olympic tradition. There is a place where it already is a part of it and it is in the home of Texas Hold 'Em itself.
Recently, the 2006 Texas Senior Olympics hosted the third renewal of their No Limit Texas Hold 'Em Tournament at the Wingate Inn in Round Rock, TX. It is an actual medal event on the agenda for the competitors at the Senior Olympics, which features the usual Olympic sporting fare of track, swimming and other events, and awards medals in two different age groups. Gold, silver and bronze medals are awarded for the participants in both the 50-64 group and also in the 65 and over group. "We've had tremendous support for this event, as it is the third year we've run it," said organizer John Berlet. "While we put it together for more of a sociable event, the competition between the Olympians is quite intense."
As I walked around the room before the tournament started, I found that there were widely differing experience levels of the players there. One of the first to arrive was the defending champion of the 50-64 age group, Ann Araguz of Austin, TX. "I've played every year that they have had the event on the schedule," Ann excitedly said. "In 2004 I took the silver in my age group and won it last year. I still want to take the whole tournament down, though!"
Ann was one of the players who had a good deal of experience at the tables. She plays in one of the many free tavern leagues that populate the scene in Texas and said she plays several times a week. Another player with poker experience was Doug Roberts, who participated in the Three Card Poker World Championship in Las Vegas. "Hold 'Em's a lot like Three Card," he stated. "If you don't get some cards to work with, you're not going to last too long!"
On the other end of the spectrum was Mike Atteberry. He admitted to me that he had never played poker before. "I watch it all the time on television, though, and I figured that I'd give it a shot," Mike said as the players began to come to the tables to start play. I wished him luck as twenty four players (including six women) stepped to the felt to begin play in the tournament. Players from Houston, Austin, Fort Worth, Abilene and even a competitor from Greenville, SC, were there and the competition was indeed intense.
Gloria Blanton stepped to the early lead when she hit Broadway against an opponent, taking a sizeable portion of chips with her. As play continued, Jim Kelly bounced one of the female players, Patsy Marburger, from the event and passed Blanton. As the tables condensed, it became evident that Gloria and her husband might meet at the same table. "Try to keep us separate," Gloria asked the tournament director. "If you don't, one of us may be walking home!" she stated as the room burst into laughter.
The tournament was that competitive as they came down to the final table and the medals. Surprisingly for his first tournament, Mike Atteberry had made it to that point and was guaranteed of taking a medal. He was eliminated in eighth place, but it was good enough for him to take the silver medal in the 50-64 age group. "Not too bad for a newcomer, huh?" he said to me as he took a place beside the table to watch the event play out.
In the end, it came down to the gold medalists for each age group to decide the overall champion. Denis Murray of Austin, TX took on Houston's Jim Kelly for the overall crown. Denis, playing a very aggressive style of poker, had amassed nearly a nine to one lead over Jim and this made the final outcome more of a formality than a true battle. In the end, Denis prevailed and not only could claim his age group championship but the overall championship as well.
Here are the winners in the 2006 Texas Senior Olympics Poker Tournament:
50-64 Age Group
1. Denis Murray, Austin
2. Mike Atteberry, Houston
3. Ron Kattner, Round Rock
64+ Age Group
1. Jim Kelly, Houston
2. Paul Jacobs, Atascosa
3. Don Ferguson
Congratulations to all the participants and the winners of the event! As poker continues to grow, the event can only get bigger as many come to enjoy the competition and spirit of the game.
Ed note: Enjoy the spirit of the game at Bodog from anywhere in the world.