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Poker regulars compete for laughs

By Jennifer Lee Preyss
Feb. 20, 2011 at 11 p.m.
Updated Feb. 19, 2011 at 8:20 p.m.

Competitors play for points Sunday evening at the tri-weekly Dodge City Night Club Texas hold 'em Poker Tournament. Every Sunday, Monday and Tuesday evening around 15-20 poker players try their luck at Dodge City.  The top eight point earners gain a spot in the final tournament, where actual money can be won.

For the past six Sundays, a group of about 20 Texas hold 'em enthusiasts have congregated at Dodge City Night Club hoping to earn a spot in the final prize-winning tournament. Since there's no entry fee, or cash exchanging hands at any time during the night, the players accumulate points. At the end of six weeks, the top 32 point earners move on to compete in a final tournament, which culminates Sunday at Dodge City.

The club's poker regulars are anything but somber and contemplative with their hands. It's not necessarily about winning the hand or the final tournament. Each week, the regulars get together for a night of casual entertainment, where players can relax, laugh and psych out their friends.

"It's about the friendships here, that's why I come," said Hector "The Connector" Pena, who's currently ranked in the top 3 players at Dodge City. "We've been coming for so long, after a while it becomes a family."

Pena said he's been playing Texas hold 'em for about three years and was nicknamed "The Connector" because on eight out of 10 hands, he'll always connect his cards on the flop - whether it's a two pair, three pair, or straight. He's also known for winning with one particular hand, the King-deuce, or Dragon Nuts.

"Hector uses Dragon Nuts to play mind games on the other players," Sarah Fossati, the game's organizer and host said, laughing. "He'll say, 'Oh no, there's Dragon Nuts' and try to scare the other players."

At a table with seven players, Pena went "all in" with his famous Dragon Nuts hand against fellow poker regular Wes Rowland. At the call, Rowland's Ace-King hand, otherwise known as a Big Slick, took the pot.

"That's usually an unbeatable hand, but tonight I got beat," Pena said, smiling.

But no matter who wins, the players have a good laugh and congratulate their competitor with a handshake and smile.

"It's about having a good time here, we don't get too worked up about it," Pena said.

But psychological warfare and a slight tomfoolery can be expected at the poker table.

"There's a lot of trash talk, it's part of the game," regular Aaron Ramos said.

Dodge City began hosting the poker games last September, and since then, Fossati said about 66 players have attended the weekly games. This Sunday will be the club's 4th poker tournament and the top prize will be around $300.

"I've grown fond of these guys, I enjoy being around them," Fossati said. "It's a social event for these people."

Currently leading in Texas hold 'em points is Henry Munsch with 11,500. Both Munsch and Pena will compete in next Sunday's tournament.

Once the tournament concludes, a new 6-week game will begin the same day.

"We're hoping more people come. We keep looking for more players," Fossati said.

Games are held at Dodge City on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday from 7 p.m. to midnight.



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