By Phil Scudella
For the second year in a row over 400 poker enthusiasts showcased their skills on December 20 at the 12th Annual Christmas Toy Drive Poker Tournament at The Arena Poker Room at Talking Stick Resort in Scottsdale.
The tournament offered $12,500 in cash, but even more important provided in excess of 400 toys to the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community Christmas Toy Drive as many players brought in more than one toy for this charity event.
“The Christmas Toy Poker Tournament is in its twelfth year at Talking Stick Resort,” said Tom Young, Director of Poker. “It’s a testament to the kind nature of our guests and their willingness to give back to the community. By competing in the match, players are doing their part to ensure others will have a happy holiday season.”
Signups for this Holiday Charity Tournament began on December 1 and continued right up to the start of the tournament at 11:15 am on Saturday December 20th.
An unwrapped toy, valued at a minimum of $10 – served as the buy-in along with a $25 service fee, at time of signup. There was also an optional $10 staff appreciation add-on bonus at the table that got each player an additional $1,500 in tournament chips.
The Tournament began at 11:15 am with all tables full and about 60 alternates waiting to get in when someone got knocked out.
In just 3 short hours the tournament went from over 400 down to 58 players by 2:20 pm. Now the fun began as many players watched tables break have players move to other seats reducing the number to 40 – The magic number of players that would cash in this event. At about 2:45 pm pandemonium broke out across the room with screams of joy as a table playing in a live game hit the “Bad Beat” Jackpot for over $41,000! A young player named Mary was jumping and shouting celebrating her $20,000 share, Kory also took home over $10,000 and the remaining 8 players each received over $1,400 for just being at that table!
The room began to quiet down and the Toy Drive Tournament resumed with Director of Poker Tom Young’s staff of Steve Briquelet, Matt Brentlinger and Molly Brentlinger paying out the prize money to all cashers, breaking tables and fielding requests from some of the players to “Chop” the prize money, but that idea did not fly. The tournament continued and by 3:30 the group hoping to make the final table was down to 18 – still no “Chop” was agreed upon – then within a half hour, we were down to the final ten. At this point several players tried to get a 100% agreement to chop the remaining prize money, but the player with the biggest stack said he would not consider a chop of any kind until it got down to 5 players. So the game continued.
10th Place and $250 went to William Neal, $350 and 9th Place was claimed by Leroy Macmonagle, 8th Place and $400 went to Aaron Schild, Bradley Cuthbertson took home $500 and 7th Place, followed by Randall Hubler in 6th Place receiving $700.
After some serious negotiating a “Chop” was finally settled upon;
1st Place – $3,000 (Chester Swift)
2nd Place – $2,000 (James Arredondo)
3rd Place – $1,100 each – a 3 way tie (Sam Rudek, Allen Lunsford and Darrell Folz)
This was a really fun event, and with all the toys donated to the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, it gave these sometimes tough acting poker players a special feeling in their hearts during this holiday season knowing that for some of these children, this just might be the only gift they receive on Christmas morning.
To learn more about all tournaments coming up at the Arena Poker Room, just go to talkingstickresort.com or call 480.850.7777 – Talking Stick Resort is located at 9800 E. Indian Bend Road in Scottsdale.