Poker players ready to hold ’em for local kids

By Dan Shah

Poker players will be able to challenge their tournament skills as well as help out the local children of Champaign County as Big Brothers Big Sisters hosts a poker tournament Friday at the Elks Lodge, 903 N. Dunlap Ave., Savoy, Ill.

The variation of poker will be Texas Hold ’em, a form of poker that has exploded with popularity in the recent years.

“Considering the recent popularity with poker, we decided this would be a great way to hold a licensed tournament and raise some extra money,” said Greg Cook, Big Brothers Big Sisters advisory board member of Champaign County board and tournament director.

Big Brothers Big Sisters has been mentoring and helping children since 1904.

“Big Brothers Big Sisters is the oldest and largest youth mentoring organization in the United States,” said Claire Eskew, advisory board vice-chairperson. “In 2004, the organization served more than 220,000 youths, ages six through 18, in 5,000 communities across the country in one-to-one relationships.”

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The goal of the program is not solely academically-based.

“The focus is on one-to-one relationships with the children,” Cook said. “They have basically two systems. One is community based (to take the children to social events.) And the other is school based. That is where you physically go into the school to help the children be academically mentored.”

The registration fee for the event is $100. The registration for the event starts at 5:30 p.m., and the event begins at 6:30 p.m., Cook said.

The registration fee will help contribute to the prize pool, cover hosting expenses and fund the Big Brothers Big Sisters program.

“All proceeds will benefit Big Brothers Big Sisters of Champaign County,” Eskew said.

The tournament has 200 total seats available and is open to everyone 18 and older. There will be cash payouts for players in about the top 10 percent, and the blinds are scheduled to be raised every 20 minutes. The winner will receive $2,500 if registration meets expectations.

“Our goal is 200 people,” Cook said. “Assuming we get full registration, the organization can raise between $13,000 and $15,000. We have a big sponsor for the event, Labor Ready, who is helping out to cover the costs of hosting and to help raise funds.”

Labor Ready is a temporary labor service that provides companies with on-demand service for their needs, said Kevin Ducey, branch manager of Labor Ready’s Champaign office.

Ducey hopes that Big Brothers Big Sisters can meet their goals.

“I’m just hoping that Big Brothers Big Sisters can fill a staff to help out the children in Champaign County,” Ducey said. “The fundraiser is for keeping staffing on and providing events for the children in Champaign County.”