Get out the playing cards, poker chips and your best poker face because the North Dakota Texas Hold 'em Poker Championship Tournament will be descending on The Vegas Motel and Sevens Bar & Restaurant in Minot this weekend, starting today and continuing through Monday.
According to Wendy Rupert, general manager of The Vegas Motel and creator and co-founder of the North Dakota Texas Hold 'em Poker Championship Tournament, high energy and high excitement are the moods filling the air at the event. "Everyone is hoping, believing, and expecting to be the champion. It's a great time."
The first prize payout will be for $45,000 and the estimated prize pool is slated to be $149,000. The prize pool will be paid out to 100th place and the top 200 players advance to the championship round. The prize payout is based on 1,200 registrants at $150 per registration.
File Photo • Poker players fill The Vegas Motel during the 2011 North Dakota Texas Hold ‘em Poker Championship Tournament.
The North Dakota Texas Hold 'em Poker Championship Tournament is modeled after the World Series of Poker. Rupert said she highly encourages people to come and watch. Poker isn't usually thought of as a spectator sport, she added, but it really is.
In 2004, the poker tournament started with 387 entrants. Rupert said she wanted to create a marquee event when there was a lull in tourism and traffic and wanted to bring people to Minot. The name of The Vegas Motel sparked interest in the poker tournament, she added, and at the time there was no state tournament. Since then, it has grown in notoriety and attendance, Rupert said, with people coming from across the country to participate in it. In 2011, there were 1,852 entrants. To date, there has not been a repeat winner, she noted. Last year's winner was from California, another year the winner was from Canada, and other years the winners have been within the state, Rupert continued.
A big crowd is anticipated for this year's tournament, with a high attendance expected from Canada, Rupert noted. "We're garnering attention from other states," she added. "We have a large amount of states represented in the tournament."
Players in the tournament typically range in age from 21 to 84, Rupert remarked, and it's usually 75 percent men and 25 percent women participating. There has never been a female champion, she said, but there have been women to have made it into the top ten. Women are more cautious, she thought. "The players say it's a combination of luck, skill and timing."
Every year the coordinators of the tournament try to improve on the structure and take ideas from the World Series of Poker, Rupert said. This year, there are changes in the structure, she added.
The gaming for this event is sponsored by the Minot State University Alumni Association. Rupert said North Dakota State Gaming law requires that all proceeds from events like this go toward charity, so the funds will be given to the Minot State University marketing scholarship fund. Students in turn are given hands-on opportunities to work on marketing events in the community, she added.
The best part about the tournament, Rupert said, is seeing repeat players and there is a large volunteer group. It's like a large family get-together and it's exciting to see each other again, she added.
"It's just fun to see the excitement in the crowd and the atmosphere is electric."
The poker action starts this evening with registration at 4:30 p.m. and play starting at 6 p.m. for the free roll tournament. Qualifying rounds will be held Saturday, at 10 a.m., and again on Sunday at noon, with registration at 8 a.m. and 10 a.m., respectively.
The championship round will take place Monday, with registration starting at 8 a.m. and play starting at 10 a.m. Participants are encouraged to register early to guarantee their spot in the tournament.
Registration forms are available at The Vegas Motel and Sevens Bar & Restaurant or can be downloaded at (www.thevegasmotel.com). The tournament is open to anyone 21 years or older. The tournament will be conducted under the National Tournament Director and World Series of Poker Tournament Rules and Guidelines.