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Best of John G. Brokopp

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Poker deals charitable gambling a winning hand

7 March 2007

Charitable organizations at one time turned to bingo and Las Vegas nights for fundraising events. Today they're capitalizing on the poker craze to help generate financial support for their programs.

Texas Hold'em poker tournaments for charity are no penny ante fundraisers. The rooms are usually packed with enthusiastic players who take satisfaction in knowing the money that's raised is for a good cause.

Unlike live poker rooms at casinos in the Chicago area and Northwest Indiana where you have to be 21 or older to play, the minimum age for charity tournaments is 18.

Another attraction is the fact beginners and novices can always find a friendly and affordable game, which isn't to imply the tournaments don't attract experienced players. The tournaments also have a loyal following of poker sharpies looking for action.

Jim Kasputis, president of Rockford Charitable Games Association (RCGA), Inc., runs one of the biggest traveling poker games in Illinois. He started his company in 1984.

RCGA maintains a data base of 10,000 active players representing all levels of experience. Anywhere from 300 to over 500 players will turn out for each of the nearly 200 events that will be held this year at venues in the greater Rockford, Illinois and Chicago areas.

"In the beginning, poker was a very small part of it," Kasputis said. "We'd bring in 25 blackjack tables and maybe five poker tables. Today it's 30 poker tables and no blackjack. Texas Hold'em has exploded in popularity."

An organization qualifies for a charitable games license in Illinois if it is 501c tax exempt and has been in existence for five years or more. Once licensed, it can hold up to four poker fund raisers a year. Popular venues include restaurants, banquet facilities and VFW halls. Owners can rent their facilities to bona fide charities up to eight times a year.

The host charity, which has no investment in the games, extracts a "rake" of 10 percent from each pot up to a maximum of $5. The State of Illinois takes three percent of the gross with the charity pocketing the rest after it pays the rent and a fee to RCGA.

Legally, a player can cash out $250 over and above what they bought in for, but each fundraiser can offer unlimited prizes, such as seats to the World Series of Poker.

Charity poker tournaments afford opportunities for devotees of the game from all walks of life.

On Sunday, February 25, the West Suburban Association of the Deaf, based in Oak Brook, Illinois, sponsored a Texas Hold'em poker tournament for deaf players at Hanging Gardens Banquets, 8301 W. Belmont Avenue in River Grove, Illinois. It attracted entrants from all around the Midwest.

The first and second place finishers in the tournament each won a seat to the 2007 World Series of Poker (a $10,000 value) at the Rio All-Suite Casino and Hotel in Las Vegas, plus travel expenses.

"Deaf players communicate at the tables using American Sign Language," said Ed Glennon, Jr., the event's chairman. "Many deaf and hard-of-hearing persons play in major tournaments in Las Vegas."

For more information about RCGA and a schedule of charity poker fundraisers, log on to www.rockfordcharitablegames.com.

Majestic Star's poker room impresario Dom Niro reports that the casino will be hosting three Heartland Poker Tour events this year (March 17 - 25, July 21 - 29, and December 1 - 9). Visit www.heartlandpokertour.com or stop by the poker room on Majestic Star II and ask to speak to Dom or a member of his staff for more information.

John G. Brokopp

John G. Brokopp's gaming column appears in Chicago Sun Times (Chicago, Illinois), The Times (Northwest Indiana), The Quad City Times (Davenport, Iowa), The Courier News (Elgin, Illinois), The Gazette (Southwest Suburban Chicago) and Senior Wire (Denver, CO). He's also a regular contributor to The Colorado Gambler, Midwest Gaming & Travel, Casino Player and Strictly Slots. John possesses 28 years of experience as a professional handicapper, publicist, freelance writer, and casino gaming correspondent. He is also the author of two very popular books, The Insider’s Guide to Internet Gambling and Thrifty Gambling.

Books by John G. Brokopp:

> More Books By John G. Brokopp

John G. Brokopp
John G. Brokopp's gaming column appears in Chicago Sun Times (Chicago, Illinois), The Times (Northwest Indiana), The Quad City Times (Davenport, Iowa), The Courier News (Elgin, Illinois), The Gazette (Southwest Suburban Chicago) and Senior Wire (Denver, CO). He's also a regular contributor to The Colorado Gambler, Midwest Gaming & Travel, Casino Player and Strictly Slots. John possesses 28 years of experience as a professional handicapper, publicist, freelance writer, and casino gaming correspondent. He is also the author of two very popular books, The Insider’s Guide to Internet Gambling and Thrifty Gambling.

Books by John G. Brokopp:

> More Books By John G. Brokopp