Desert Diamond charity poker event rocks

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To stand out in the crowded field of poker tournaments, each event needs to find a way to make itself notable.

The Desert Diamond Casino in Tucson figured guaranteeing a large first prize would do the trick, and it worked for its ninth annual Chicanos Por La Causa charity tournament Feb. 28-March 2.

The three-day tournament drew 70 players, who each paid $200 for a prize pool that included $10K guaranteed for first place. This made for a top-heavy payout structure, putting a premium on players chipping up early to make a deep run late.

Two opening flights saw 27 players advance to the final day, with the top 10 spots earning a piece of what ended up being a $17K prize pool. Each entry included $70 that went to Chicanos Por La Causa, a nonprofit organization that provides housing and social services to children and families throughout Arizona.

The event raised $4,900 for CPLC, with that money going toward implementation of various youth and general programs, said Tillie Arvizu, superintendent of community schools.“This means a lot to us,” Arvizu said. “We’re a big agency, but this money still helps.”

The money bubble burst late in the 11th round of play, and with blinds at 1K-2K with a 300 ante and the average stack nearly 100K there was plenty of play available.

All 10 finalists were regular Desert Diamond players other than Mario Aviles, an executive with tourney benefactor Chicanos Por La Causa who was one of six “celebrities” that were added to the field as $100 bounties. Aviles was the first to bust out of the final table, finishing 10th for $343.

Taking ninth was Carol Wilson, who earned $413, while Jose Martiatto was eighth ($511). Penny Parker was seventh ($623) behind Jose Baldenegro in sixth ($742). After James York busted in fifth ($868), the remaining four players chopped. Don Clause, who held more than 40 percent of the chips at that point, earned $5K, while John Krieder, Salam Sarah and Reen Wheeler got $2,833 apiece.

Desert Diamond poker director Gail Bennett said the event will return in 2015, as will the poker room’s annual Toys for the Tohono O’odham charity tournament in December, while other charity events might be scheduled in the future.

“We actually have a lot of charities that are interested in doing tournaments with us,” she said.

MORE DESERT DIAMOND: April will mark 30 years since the Tohono O’odham tribe opened its first gaming operation, known in 1984 as the Papago Bingo Hall.

Desert Diamond Casino opened in 1993, and since then the tribe has opened a second full-scale casino, rebuilt the original Desert Diamond and opened a small facility on the western end of the Tohono O’odham Reservation.

To celebrate the 30th anniversary, Desert Diamond is holding the $1 million Diamond Spiniversary promotion April 7-27, with 30 winners at each of the three tribal gaming properties winning prizes from a drawing April 26-27.

BUCKY’S CASINO: The poker room just outside Prescott has jumped on the Open Face Chinese poker bandwagon, spreading the game that has become all the rage on the circuit.

The game is offered in two-, three- or four-person formats, with low per-point stakes available for beginners looking to give the game a try.
For standard poker fans, Bucky’s continues its Sunday no-limit hold’em bounty tournaments through the end of August. For $80 players get a 6K stack and 15-minute blinds, with $20 awarded for each player you eliminate.

HON-DAH CASINO: For poker lovers looking for an off-the-beaten-path game, crazy pineapple tournaments are every Sunday at 4. The buy-in is $30, and $10 rebuys and add-ons are available.

For those not familiar with crazy pineapple, the game is played like hold’em with three hole cards to each player. After a round of betting, the flop is dealt and then there’s another round of betting before players must discard one of their three cards. The rest of the game is identical to hold’em. Another version of this game, known as pineapple, calls for a discard before the flop.

TALKING STICK: The third annual Winter Poker Classic was still running as Ante Up went to press. Look for results from that event in the May issue. The Arena Poker Room’s Big Stack Tournament with a $330 buy-in will be April 5 at 11:15 a.m. Players start with 10K chips but can get another 3K with an optional $15 add-on.

FT. MCDOWELL: The poker room hosts its monthly $60 ladies tournament on April 6. Players start with 10K chips at 10 a.m. (registration begins at 8) but can earn 5K more with a $10 dealer add-on. The field is capped at 80 players but alternates will be taken.

VEE QUIVA AND WILD HORSE PASS: The Super 77 jackpot stood at $44K at press time. The promotion pays a player losing with four sevens in hold’em at both properties.

HARRAH’S AK-CHIN: On Mondays at 7:30 p.m., winners of the popular $40 World Series of Poker sit-n-go tournaments earn a $250 seat into the WSOP $10K Main Event satellite on May 17-18. Second place in the SNGs wins $50 and third receives a $10 coupon for a future tournament of their choosing. A minimum of 10 players are needed.

— Email Brian at anteupsouthernaz@gmail.com.