DURANT — Cards flew and multicolored chips hit the pot as poker players from around Oklahoma and nearby states converged on the Choctaw Casino on Dec. 10-11 for the new Native American Casino Poker Tour.
The two-week tournament series was the idea of Card Player magazine, a leading publication in the poker industry, which partnered with the casino for the first event.
The federal crackdown on online poker in April (known in the poker world as “Black Friday”) has been a boon to live tournaments and cash play, which has helped many casinos and poker tours. Dominik Karelus, spokesman for Card Player Media, said the tour was introduced because of a niche in the market — American Indian casinos — and that the Choctaw Casino was a property with experience running major poker events. The casino boasts a poker room with 30 tables.
“The idea for the tour was always there, but Black Friday made Card Player realize that there will be an increased demand for live tournaments,” he said. “The Native American casinos are and have always been great clients and partners, and Card Player wanted to do something to increase the players' awareness of how great the Native American casino properties really are. Things have gone great thus far, with Choctaw reporting tournament revenues and interest way up from last year.”
Kansas wheat farmer Kirk Stewart, winner of the $1,000 buy-in Main Event championship, would take home $50,000, an intricately designed buffalo trophy, a buy-in to the casino's World Series of Poker Circuit event in January, and appear on a future cover of the magazine. The final table was also broadcast on the magazine's website. The total prize pool for the event totaled $290,681.
After playing late into the night, Stewart was thrilled with his victory and planned on investing his newly won cash in his farm and adding a bit to his poker bankroll.