Full House Celebrity Poker Tournament

Editor's note: The following is a guest post from Denver-area freelance writer and PokerStars friend Lisa Jo Barr.


By Lisa Jo Barr

It was a classic spring day in Denver, Colorado --not too warm--not too cold. But the temperatures didn't stay that way once the sun went down and the poker play heated up at the FULL HOUSE CELEBRITY POKER TOURNAMENT, an event to raise money for The Breast Cancer Research Foundation, The Denver Children's Advocacy Center, and The Denver Police Activities League sponsored by PokerStars.com, Amber Homes, and the Foote Foundation.

Adam Foote and Joe Sakic at the Full House Celebrity Poker Tournament

On my way downtown, listening to Gwen Stefani, I pondered how poker and sports celebrities kind of go together like basketball and hoop, hockey and puck. The competitive edge flowing through the veins of well-known athletes amplifies their fine appreciation of a good poker match.

The Mile High Station is a spacious two-tiered events center located near Invesco Field, home of The Denver Broncos. It's totally tucked away, like a hidden treasure, underneath a viaduct. Trying to find can be baffling--it was even a challenge to mapquest. It was well worth finding though, especially tonight when Mile High Station was the place to be--a chance for PokerStars.com players to get their poker and celebrity fix playing with current and former Avalanche favs like Adam Foote, Joe Sakic, Chris McAllister, and Dan Highnote.

Tons of other celebs walked down the rolled out red carpet and into the poker floor--stars like the NCAA champion DU Pioneers, Ryan and Trista Sutter of reality TV's Bachelorette, colorful and hilarious radio DJs Floorwax and Slacker, sports commentator Irv Brown, Former Colorado Rockies Mark Randall and Mike Lansing, and others.

I decide to stroll upstairs--where my senses are suddenly infused with a sports memorabilia paradise--framed signed jerseys, photographs and other items for the silent auction that awaits. It looks like a mini-sports museum. PokerStars.com has donated a number of items, including a signed Shaquille O' Neal jersey (that was later sold for $500 to the lucky high bidder, with all the proceeds going to great charities).

PokerStars.com player cosportsgirl had her fingers crossed before play time. She wanted to be at Adam Foote or Joe Sakic's table.

Jake Schroeder, the down-to-earth lead singer of Opie Gone Bad, introduces himself to those arriving. He's tight with all the hockey players. After all, he sings the national anthem at all the Avalanche games. In addition to his successful music career, Schroeder is committed to serving the community and volunteers time to The Denver Police Activities League, where he helps with a youth hockey team. At the start of the night--he was the first one to welcome me--before hardly anyone arrived. Just a really nice guy (who's band rocks, by the way)!

The entire DU tri-delta sorority showed as volunteers--all wearing black and white and selling helium balloons in the international colors of the poker world--red, white and black--to raise more money for breast cancer research, and greeting guests with a smile.

A cop stands at the entrance, near the red carpet.

"Is playing poker part of your agenda tonight, officer?" I ask.

"They told me I couldn't play with a gun," he said, "That would be too much like the Old Wild West."

But... it was like The Old Wild West-- a real show down... at table one.

Earlier in the night, while players were still making their way to the celebrity-studded tables, Adam Foote sat at table one--waiting and shuffling some chips.
Two hours of straight play later, with two players left, Foote knocks over a stack of chips. There's no crying over these spilt chips, however as Foote is way ahead on the chip count, up about two-thirds.

One red chip rolls over to me. I pick it up and hand it back.

"I think this belongs to you, sir," I say, smiling at one of Avalanche's finest defensemen. He thanks me, taking the chip with one hand, as he digs another chip out of his glass of water with the other.

So many chips, so little time.

All poker play takes a short break for a live auction. There's a well-organized chaos of quick bidders, fast-talkers, and re-raisers--for items like an African Safari (donated by African Eyes) and a poker table with celebrity autographs (donated by PokerStars.com)

During the break, I caught up with Foote's only remaining opponent at table numero uno--Gary, who's a Denver resident and financial advisor.

Summing up Foote's poker play? "He's real sneaky," says Gary, "and a great player."
Any similarities between poker and hockey? I think out loud. Gary responds. "When you go all in and pound someone with a good hand--it's kinda like pounding someone into the boards."

Okay, I can see that.

I look down at the felt. I'm glad there's no blood on this red table--just friendly cards and chips.

The auction ends and the music begins with Opie Gone Bad's guitary-funkadelic, get-up and move tunes--the musicians play on a stage with a giant lucky horseshow behind them. Shuffle up and deal! The action's back on table numero uno.

The flop is turned--revealing an 8 of hearts---Ace of clubs and 9 of hearts.

Gary goes all in.

Foote stares him down with a friendly grin-like poker face, as if trying to get a read on him. Adam sighs heavily, then calls the bet.

The hole cards are flopped:
Adam's shows an 8 of clubs and 6 of spades.
Gary holds a 2 of diamonds and 2 of clubs.
4th street turns an 8 of spades

The game is over...

The river shows a 3 of hearts, but game cards have already landed Foote the winner, cleaning up with his trip 8s.

Adam Foote tells me to meet him upstairs and leads me into the VIP lounge, where being star struck is not for the weak-hearted. Stars are everywhere--it feels like a best-of locker room, a who's who of the sports world. We sit on a couch. I'm a bit nervous, but his friendly demeanor sets my mind at ease.

Foote tells me he started The Foote Foundation last year, during the hockey-season that-wasn't. He wanted to give back to the community and has raised money for a number of different causes--especially those that fund breast cancer research.
As for poker, Foote, who's been playing a while, and picking up Texas hold'em just in the past two years, says he kept getting bullets tonight, and kept calling guys at the table bluffing.

Foote says poker is a friendly game, that he doesn't have to hit anybody like he does at his day job with The Colorado Avalanche.

Diamonds may be a girl's best friend, but they're also Adam Foote's favorite suit--who says he likes everything about them--their color, name, pattern and shape. He sees a lot of them too.

Foote recalls a colorful play at a game last Wednesday---his "2-3 incident"

Foote announced to the table he was holding a 2-3. Nobody believed him. Before the river, Foote had an inside straight draw. Foote kept saying: "I'm looking for Bobby Orr" (who's team number is 4). Everyone thought he was nuts. Well, there was a four on the river and Foote won the hand with a 5 high straight, and then thanked Bobby Orr out loud for his spirit of four.

I stroll over to Joe Sakic's table. A cameraman from Channel 9 news is capturing his every move. Sakic looks cool and relaxed. I ask the player next to him, what his strategy is. Joe cuts in with a joke and says--"he keeps looking at my cards, that's his strategy!"

That strategy didn't last long. The next hand, Sakic won a big pot with two pair, jacks and aces. "Wow, you're winning, Joe!"

As he stacked up his winnings, Sakic says, jokingly about his Avalanche teammate "Yeah, I really want to win a signed photo of Adam Foote!"

He was definitely in the minority. Most people here would love to get their hands on that prize!

730 pm--
At another table, Boxer DaVarryl Williamson, aka "touch of sleep," plays at an all-boys table. This current WBC Continental Americas Heavyweight Camp--says he's new to the game of poker but loves it. "Poker has taken the world by storm!" he says with a glamorous smile, then folds, and gets philosophical: "Those who do not belong have eliminated themselves." Good advice in the boxing ring--perhaps at the poker table, as well.

I head upstairs again--my head is dizzy with flops, turns, rivers...celebrities and pokerstars. All the tables are filled. Cigar smoke lightly scents the air. Denver DJ Michael FLOORWAX (from the Lewis and Floorwax show), who exudes fun--cigar, sunglasses and all, went in hard and doubled up on the first two hands. Then he went all in with a flush draw pair. He got his straight, but was then beat out by someone with a higher one. "It was the weakest thing that anyone's every beat me at--besides golf!"

Earlier that night, during intros, he had leaned over the balcony, and flashed the crowd his super-white and robust tanless-tummy. Wax giggled saying he just had to show off his washboard abs (not). This poker playing DJ poked fun at himself light-heartedly for some laughs. This Denver-based DJ was hilarious!

Back downstairs in the city of blinding light--I order a coke--a local tells me he doesn't play on PokerStars.com but plans to start after being knocked out of a qualifying tourney by a person wearing a PokerStars.com tee shirt. Good thinkin'! Might as well play with the best!

It's 10:20 pm.

Boy, time flies when you're having fun! The games have winded down are over. But a second band, The Railbenders, take to the stage--Big stand up bass.
Twang to the Nth degree. Johnny Cash's spirit is here. And the DU DELTA DELTA DELTA girls can't resist jumping up to dance to the atmospheric tunes--a old school country/rock sound--that painting the end of the night with a soundtrack perfect for a new David Lynch film staring Nicholas Cage and a deck of 52 cards.

I close my eyes for a couple of minutes, and time travel back to The Old Wild West. Saloons in mountain towns. Dirt roads. Horses. Cowboys with cards on fire--player's hearts skipping a beat, awaiting the river.

"I'm driving back to Denver, been driving all night long..." wails the lead singer. I open my eyes back to the year 2005--where poker is still the name of the game, where there's a new breed of card playing cowboys in the form of PokerStars.com players shining in the clear night sky like diamonds.

I head back to the bar for more water--One of the dealers comes up and introduces himself--compliments me on my sparkly PokerStars.com shirt. Dan Carlson has been loyal to PokerStars.com ever since he discovered it. "I think PokerStars.com is the best poker website out there."

Lemon and raspberry bars, bottled water is handed out to those remaining. It's a little after midnight. Everyone's drawn a winning hand tonight, as PokerStars.com along with other sponsors, successfully raised over $100,000 dollars to good charities.

Linda Harmon, co-owner of co-sponsor Amber Homes, said the event "turned out greater than anticipated, and far exceeded all of our expectations. There were way more celebrities than we thought were coming--with 2-3 sitting at each table."

With the success of the event, Adam Foote has announced he intends to do an encore this November. It was a great night with great people which benefited some great causes.

Brad Willis
@BradWillis in PokerStars news