The heat in August seems unbearable, but the action at Chips For Tots free roll poker tournaments promises to be even hotter.
Charity and free roll poker are combining through Chips For Tots, a free amateur Texas hold 'em League that debuts at Woody's Place/West Wing Monday night.
"The first thing we want people to understand is this is a free poker league designed to establish friendships and educate about the game of poker," said Russell Huffman, founder of Chips for Tots and its website, chipsfortots.com. "There is no gambling, betting is not allowed and no money is ever allowed on the table. Free roll tournaments are about strategy, knowledge of the game and reading other players. But again, it is not a place to gamble."
Any and all players can take US Highway 377 to Woody's between Dublin and Stephenville and play for free. All players start with an estimated 5,000 chips and their bounty chip.
"There are several ways for players to earn bonus chips, allowing them to start with a deeper stack and experiment with the different styles of play they have been taught," said Huffman. "For example, a player may want a short stack so they can learn to play from behind. Other players - most players - prefer a larger stack so they have the ability to change gears and make moves to position themselves throughout the tournament."
Free roll Texas Hold 'Em is no different than a monopoly or dominoes tournament, or even a game of bingo. There is no gambling allowed, and players still have the opportunity to win cash and prizes with no entry free ever being charged.
"When we began organizing the league, we first approached then district attorney Jason Cashon and county attorney Lisa Pence with our idea and requested guidance," Huffman said. "We also presented information from the state attorney general's office showing we can legally play tournaments as long as we follow the guidelines."
The main goal behind Chips for Tots is to benefit area children with donations from the league through funds raised from baked good sales, league memorabilia items and food drives. Other fundraising ideas may come in time, Huffman says.
"Some people can't afford to donate cash, but they can come and play and help us out in other ways, such as just helping spread word of the tournaments and our charitable efforts," he said.
Huffman plans to interact with players who join the league, and looks forward to their feedback. Players attending will have the opportunity to make suggestions and fill out questionnaires concerning the best times and days to play, ideas for league prizes, what type of award to present an eventual league champion and charity suggestions.
Texas hold 'em is no stranger to its namesake state, and free Hold 'Em isn't either.
Mega-successful poker star Phil Hellmuth has raised millions of dollars in Texas through charity poker events, and free roll tournaments are a regular occurrence as close as Fort Worth.
The World Poker Tour Amateur League holds free rolls seven nights a week throughout the DFW Metroplex and the state where, just as it will be at Woody's with Chips for Tots, players never pay a dime to enter the events. The WPT is the largest amateur poker league and even has a championship in Las Vegas each year.
There are other leagues, too, such as Drop N Aces, based in Denton County, Royal Flush, mostly in Dallas and more. All offer free rolls following the state attorney general's guidelines, and at most venues, participants may also receive bonus chips for food items, charitable donations and more.
The internet is riddled with examples of children's organizations benefiting from poker events across the country, and the same concept is what fuels Huffman and Chips For Tots.
The bottom line - the cause is good, and the poker real.
"We are going to crown an annual champion and have standings players can follow throughout a given year," Huffman said. "So it is competitive. Everyone likes to win."
Huffman has confirmed at least one venue champion from the Drop N Aces league will be on hand Monday when the first tournament starts at 7 p.m. In addition to bonus chips for food purchases and more, players will also receive 1,000 bonus chips for arriving by 6:30 p.m. and 2,000 for arriving by 6 p.m.
Once the action begins, traditional tournament structure will be followed, complete with escalating blinds to increase the action as the game moves forward.
"It gets intense, especially when the blinds have reached the thousands and finally the ten thousands," said Huffman. "I've played in and seen a lot of final tables in free rolls and the competition is great. Anybody can have fun with this, and be charitable in the process."
Texas Hold 'Em has seen its popularity grow exponentially since ESPN and other cable networks began broadcasting top-tier events such as the annual World Series of Poker.
Huffman hopes its popularity will also soar locally.
"No gambling, and no obligations," he reiterated. "Just a lot of fun inside a beautiful, clean venue that offers some of the best food in the area playing Texas Hold 'Em and helping kids. Come and check it out for yourself."
*First Tournament: 7 p.m. Monday at Woody's Place/West Wing
*Bonus Chips: Arrive at 6 p.m. for 2K bonus, 6:30 p.m. for 1K bonus; bonuses also earned for purchase of food, by printing and submitting story in Friday edition of E-T or advertisement in Sunday edition of E-T; by printing and submitting bonus chip page from chipsfortots.com; more bonus options also available
Follow Chips For Tots on Twitter @chipsfortotscom
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