Ah, Remember the Good Ole Days … when Poker Was for Kids?

by , Oct 18, 2006 | 2:43 pm

La Riata is this Saturday. Once upon a time it was the coolest, bestest, biggest charity tourney in Texas. By giving away a single $10,000 prize, the Texas Stampede was able to draw some 300+ players and raise more than $250,000 for Children’s Medical Center. It was a great way for Dallas sharks to meet willing whales. It still is, but alas, the WSOP main event seat has to be given away by raffle. But hey, last year’s raffle winner, Whit Blanton, parlayed his luck of the draw into a $50,000 display of WSOP skill.

I’ll be honest … La Riata is hurting a bit for players this year. It’s not so clear that they’ll be able to raise even $100k. Another example of Texas children being punished by Texas’ inability to allow any sort of legal poker involving money and prizes. And to some extent, the tournament itself is learning the lessons so many underground operators had to learn:

1. Bad dealers make an event not fun … and especially not worth rebuys.
2. Bad blind structures do the same.
3. Promising a prize that is not delivered also doesn’t sit well.

I know that La Riata officials took #’s 1 and 2 to heart … and they promise better pitches and better blinds. As to #3 … that was the work of a rogue/over-excited PR agent who last year spread word that Phil Hellmuth was going to buy the winner of the Riata tourney into the WSOP main event as a “gift”. Woulda been a brilliant way around the law — you can’t prevent an individual from giving a gift — but that turned out not to be the case.

Pokerati did a little research and discovered Phil Hellmuth indeed had no idea about this supposed promise. Nor did any Texas Stampede “top dogs.” The PR agent who started said rumor is not back on board this
year. And likewise, in 2006 there are no promises for anything but pride and glory to the winner of the tournament.

For the sake of good poker, I really hope this isn’t the last La Riata — which has always had a special place in Batface hearts ever since Todd made the final table in 2003, and Shane won it in 2004. (Son of Sue took 2nd that year, and I finished 26th out of 350+.) The Stampede organizers were smart, imho, by making it less about the poker this year and more about the wife-friendly gala. And that’s what it is … a big fancy swanky denim-and-diamonds affair, that happens to have a poker tourney hosted by Phil Hellmuth as part of it.

So if you are looking to make some sizable tax-deductible contributions to Texas children in need … then this event is still a pretty good way to have fun while doing so.

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