Off The Press

May 4, 2010

By David Hayes

Elks poker players help raise funds for charities

David Hayes Press reporter

I’ve been playing poker now long enough and well enough that I could theoretically take the next step — go pro.

One problem is I never set aside my winnings in a separate poker bankroll account to fund entering other poker events. I usually end up spending it on regular activities, so I’m always starting over from square one.

The other problem is I enjoy where I’m playing now — the Elks Lodge. However, based on the declining numbers showing up at our poker leagues, fewer players are doing likewise. The biggest exodus of players is due quite literally to them moving out of town. We’ve lost others — one who decided to concentrate on family, one to natural causes and three because when one broke up with another, all three stopped showing.

I could take my money elsewhere and play in bigger events with bigger payouts. But casinos have a rake of all the action that they get to keep.

I prefer the Elks’ procedure — the rake they keep ends up going to charity.

And therein lies the best way, I think, to attract more players to stay local. Wracking my brain for incentives for attracting new players, I was reminded that Elks poker players support multiple charities:

-Donations last year alone topped $2,500 to Compassion House, transitional housing for families down on their luck

-The Elks hosted a tournament to help an Issaquah city employee’s wife with cancer pay for medical treatment (the couple was surprised with the entire prize pool going to them, rather than the gracious players)

-The Elks National Foundation, which provides more than $3.64 million in college scholarships

-Regionally, poker money has helped fund the Washington Elks Therapy Program for Children

-Money has gone to help individuals, such as Jacob Stoddard, 13, attend a one-week summer academy for conservation in June

-And money has gone to help a collective, such as saving the kokanee salmon in Lake Sammamish through a charity fundraiser hosted by Trout Unlimited (I’m proud to say more Elks members entered that tournament than members of the nonprofit organization, helping increase the overall donation).

If giving at each tournament to charity wasn’t enticing enough, then, as I’ve always said, bypass the heart and aim for the stomach. The Elks poker league features the bubble ham, a fine 20-pound Kirkland brand ham from Costco that goes to the one who just misses out on the money payouts. The most-asked questions I get while running the leagues is, “Is there a ham?” One of the few times I didn’t have time to pick one up before a tournament, of course, was our biggest turnout of the year, the day before Easter. Talk about bad timing. Go figure.

And, thanks to a fine donation from Fischer Meats, a pound of slab bacon, affectionately called the “bust out bacon” goes to the first one out of the tournament. (When two players bust out at the same time, there have been actual squabbles over who gets the bacon. It’s that revered a prize.)

Finally, to participate in our poker events, you don’t even have to be a member. Anyone who shows up is a welcomed guest of the lodge. But show up enough times, and we won’t have to talk you into joining — after seeing all of the other programs the Elks does besides those related to poker (way too long to list here) you might end up joining on your own.

The winter/spring league is wrapping up this weekend, but there are still plenty of opportunities to join a game throughout the summer. Even with summer vacations, enough players stick around to get a tournament going every other weekend and definitely every Friday night.

So, for now, I’ll forego turning pro and keep my game local, where I can continue to keep playing with my “family.”

Care to be adopted? E-mail me and I’ll add you to the official notification list.

David Hayes: 392-6434, ext. 237, dhayes@isspress.com. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.

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