By Nancy RasmussenMay 2, 2008
A field of 162 Texas Hold'em fans, including 15 ladies, showed up to play in the 11-hour, Army Emergency Relief benefit tournament co-sponsored by Fort Rucker's Morale, Welfare and Recreation and the 110th Aviation Brigade at Aviators' Landing here early Saturday morning, raising a record $6,300 for the worthwhile charity.
Tournament director Scott Morgan was beaming after figuring out just how much the check to AER would be.
"We boosted our donation over last year's by about $1,000, with 20 fewer players," he said.
Morgan said players came from all over the tri-state area either just to have fun or with serious hopes of taking home the $1,600 cash first prize. In the end, the skill of veteran Hold'em contestant Maj. Steve Turner paid off and he immediately returned $200 of his winnings to AER, according to Morgan.
Turner said this was the first tournament he's won.
"It feels great (to win) because it's for a great cause and to be able to donate more," he said.
His younger brother, Eric, is a professional poker player, who Turner said, taught him a few things.
"He taught me skills about being patient and waiting for a great hand and about aggressions," Turner said.
Flight student Greg Houston won the $800 second place cash prize. Houston was the first player in local tournament history to re-buy more chips after just the first round of play and end up at the final table.
By noon about half the players remained, and the sound of volunteers breaking down and packing up excess green felt-covered tables could be heard from the dining room where players and dealers were treated to a pasta lunch.
The atmosphere began to slow down some, as blinds rose steadily and by about 5:30 p.m. the field of players had shrunk. Remaining were 10 die hard players awaiting a dramatic end to a long, sometimes nerve-wracking day.
Another history maker at the annual Texas Hold'em fundraiser was Ginger Creel of Dothan who was the first woman to make it into the final 10. She finished fourth and won $500. Creel also won two card protectors - one for an ace high flush and another for being the last woman standing.
"I think it's pretty darn good (being fourth) and I enjoyed it," Ginger said. "I played the best cards I could today ... I don't feel bad about any of the hands I played."
Ginger, who's been playing poker for five years, added that she's won several poker tournaments. Her husband, Grady, finished in the top 11 and took home $125.