Monday, February 14, 2005

Texas Hold 'Em is the new bingo

DAVID KOHL/ For The Post

Joe Dailey, from Crestview Hills, deals a hand during a game at the St. Pius X Texas Hold 'Em tourney Friday.

By Kevin Eigelbach Post staff reporterPicture yourself in a hall full of tables, with a half-dozen or so poker players seated at each one, all trying to be the last man sitting.
Each player gets two cards, face down, and a chance to bet. The dealer then unveils three cards, known as the flop, then one, called the turn, and finally, the last card, known as the river.
Each time, the players can bet. The winner uses his two cards and the five community cards to make the best poker hand -- or bets to persuade everyone else to think he has the best hand -- and take the pot.
It's called Texas Hold 'Em, and it may one day become a significant source of revenue for local charities, said Tony Royalty, spokesman for the Kentucky Office of Charitable Gaming.
"It is fairly new, and we are having to wait and see if its popularity continues, but the general feeling is it could become as or more popular as bingo, given time," Royalty said.
It's easy to see why.
LaSalle High School in Monfort Heights had its first Texas Hold 'Em tournament last March, making it one of the first local organizations to do so.
In January, the school held a bigger, three-day tournament with more than 600 players. Associate Director of Development Matt Dierkers estimates that it netted the school's athletic program close to $30,000.
That's $10,000 a night, and you can't make that kind of money hosting a bingo. According to charitable gaming records, one of Northern Kentucky's most consistently successful bingo operations, the Glenn Cole Evangelistic Association, made less than $3,000 a night at its twice-weekly sessions in Covington last year.
LaSalle expects more than 600 players at its next tournament, a four-day event starting on March 31.
It's worth the hoops the school has to jump through to ensure it doesn't break any Ohio laws, Dierkers said. Those hoops include finding more than 350 volunteers to deal the cards and keep the games going.
It doesn't take much overhead to put on a poker tournament, said Sean Hennessy, a Westwood resident who has helped several charities.
Many already have a hall and some tables. Poker players aren't picky when it comes to where they play, Hennessy said.
"They would play on plywood doors if they could," he said.
Poker has another advantage over bingo -- men won't play bingo, but they will play poker, Hennessy said.
The Prince of Peace Parent Teacher Association made about $1,000 on its first poker tournament, held Feb. 5 at the Covington school with 44 players.
"We anticipated more people, but we got a late start," said PTA member Bernie Strange, of Covington. "If we had advertised sooner, we would have had more.''
The $50 charge to play -- an average admission price -- included food and soft drinks. Volunteers sold beer for $1.50 a can.
The association kept about 50 percent of the admissions fees and paid out the rest to the winners, she said.
"For our first one, we were happy," she said.
If the St. Pius X Athletic Association makes a few thousand dollars from its first tournament, which ended about 1 a.m. Saturday, association president Bridget Spears will be happy.
The Edgewood resident said the association supports 36 basketball teams, 23 volleyball teams, a cross-country team and several knothole softball and T-ball teams.
Events like this help keep fees at a minimum, she said. They also keep the children from having to raise money.
"I'm against kids going out and hawking raffle tickets, or whatever," she said. "Our goal is to have socials that people can choose to come to and have fun."
Catholic churches have used bingo to raise money for years, but that doesn't mean betting on poker doesn't concern some Catholics.
"I'm not too keen on gambling in general," said Father Robert Wehage, the pastor of St. Pius X Church. "I'm not one of those people who's wild about it."
Covington Bishop Roger Foys recently created a committee to study the Diocese of Covington's policy on casino-style gaming, diocese spokesman Tim Fitzgerald said. He didn't know if that would include poker tournaments.
"There is a point where gambling does cross the line and gets into vice," Wehage said. "As long as limits are put on it, as long as it doesn't emulate casino-type gaming, I guess I'm OK with it."
The St. Pius event has a $100 admission price, with no provision for a player to buy his way back in once he loses all his chips.
"It's not like anyone could lose their shirt, because of the limits set," Spears said.
In some tournaments, players who lose their chips can buy their way back in at a cheaper price. That's a popular option with charities, Hennessy said. Almost all of the players will buy their way back into the game at least once, he said, which means more money for the charity.
LaSalle High School doesn't allow rebuys at its tournaments, Dierkers said.
"We're here to put on a quality event," he said. "We're not here to take somebody's paycheck."
At the tournament that the Shamrock Boxing Club plans for March 13, players will pay $85 initially, and $60 to buy their way back in an unlimited number of times during the first two hours of play.
Volunteers will also hawk instant-win bingo cards, also known as pull-tabs, during the action.
The Covington charity, which trains young people to box, also runs one of the area's most successful bingo games.
But this winter, the bingo hasn't done as well as usual, owner Terry O'Brien said, and the gym has a big gas and electric bill to pay off.
Someone suggested a poker tournament. It takes about the same amount of effort as running a bingo game, he said.
"I was told there was interest enough," O'Brien said.
"They all run themselves. You just have to keep the books right."
One advantage bingo holds over poker is that with a charitable gaming license, a Kentucky charity can do two sessions of bingo per week for a year.
But a charity can get only a license for a special event, such as a poker tournament, twice a year. That rule also holds true in Ohio.
Publication Date: 02-14-2005
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