Record field descends upon Dania (Fla.) poker room

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With the hope of winning a $10,000 seat in the World Series of Poker played next week in Las Vegas, 435 players entered the Dan Le Batard Celebrity Poker Tournament held at Dania Jai-Alai on June 30.

Dania officials said this was a record crowd for a poker tournament held at the Dania Beach facility.

As the players at the final table struggled to survive, Christopher Lewis of Miramar held the chip lead and the possible $10K prize. Just before 1 a.m., he and the final two remaining players decided they’d rather take the cash in lieu of the ticket and agreed on “chopping” the remaining prize pool of more than $16,000.

While Lewis took the tournament trophy, he pocketed $6,500 while the second- and third-place finishers took $5,093 each. The tournament paid 20 spots.

“We knew that the low buy-in of $79 would attract players to play for a WSOP $10,000 Main Event seat,” said Paula Lettiere, Dania Jai-Alai’s poker room administrator. “But, that, coupled with the promotion and party atmosphere that the radio station brings, made it our biggest event ever.”

The tournament had sold out all 26 tables the day before, but people were allowed to enter as alternates, sitting in when someone was knocked out.

“We finally had to shut down entries about 7:15 p.m. because we had almost 200 alternates knowing they would have to wait a long time to even sit down,” said Dave Winslow, Dania’s director of operations. “We probably could have hit 500 entries.”