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by Linda Johnson |  Published: May 17, 2005


I was pleased to be invited to play in the recent Pro/Am Celebrity Poker Tournament, benefiting the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Arizona and held at the Scottsdale Resort and Conference Center in Scottsdale, Arizona. This year's event included a full casino, poker tournament, buffet, and music and dancing. Adding to the fun, Elvis even showed up to sing to us! The doors opened at 5 p.m. for a line of players who enjoyed the early outdoor appetizers and cocktails, and then joined others who were playing blackjack, craps, and roulette. Of course, it was all for play money, with an opportunity to redeem chips at the general store for tickets to win prizes. A silent auction to benefit Make-A-Wish was also conducted.

At 7:30 p.m., the no-limit hold'em tournament started after an introduction of the celebrity guests. The invited guests included Scotty Nguyen, Mike Laing, Jan Fisher, Chip and Karina Jett, Ben Tang, and me. The tournament buy-in was $500 and 122 players started the event. Since the invited guests were playing for charity, we were not eligible to win prizes. I ended up making the final table, so the tournament directors decided to have a "Calcutta" auction to see who would buy the rights to win whatever prize I would have won. The Calcutta money went to the charity. Now, picture this: It was 2 a.m. when the final table started and there were only about 15 spectators still hanging around when they decided to "sell" my action to the highest bidder. Spectators were trying to figure out what the right price for me would be, keeping in mind the following factors: I was in fourth chip position with about $80,000, the structure was very fast (the blinds were $6,000-$12,000 and doubled every 30 minutes), and the chip leader had about $260,000 and was a very good player. To determine my value, they also needed to know that we were playing for the following prizes:

First place – 2005 Buick FBR car plus a $10,000 entry to a World Poker Tour (WPT) event

Second place – 2005 Harley-Davidson Sportster plus an entry to the World Series of Poker (WSOP) main event

Third place – 52-inch plasma TV plus a $1,500 WSOP entry

Fourth place – poker trip to Europe plus a $1,500 WSOP entry

Fifth place – Hublot watch plus a $1,500 WSOP entry

Sixth place – Mexican Riviera trip plus a $1,500 WSOP entry

Seventh place – Hawaii trip plus three days/two nights at Bellagio in Las Vegas

Eighth place – Diamond bracelet plus three days/two nights at Bellagio Ninth place – 46-inch plasma TV plus three days/two nights at Bellagio

10th place – Four season tickets to the Arizona Diamondbacks and three days/two nights at Bellagio

The bidding opened at $2,500 and was quite spirited, considering that there was only a handful of spectators and they had not been prepared for the auction in advance. The final bid was $4,750 by a group of three young men who had formed an alliance to bid. I was happy to have brought that much money for the charity, but the pressure was enormous. I figured I needed to finish at least fourth for my backers to make a profit on their "investment." After going all in on the first hand of the final table and seeing them squirming a bit, I offered to buy myself back for $5,000 so that they could be assured of a profit. They said that they would gamble on me and hope for the best. One by one, players were eliminated and their faith in me was rewarded when I finished third, netting them a small profit and giving me a great sense of relief.

First through 10th place, respectively, were Josh Bauer, Jim Mitchell, Linda Johnson, Joshua Rush, Brad Levine, Matt Franz, Ken Schwagerman, Peter Pitrone, Richard Foe, and Jim Clark. Dr. Tom Bodnar finished on the bubble in 11th place and won four season tickets to the Phoenix Suns plus a two-night stay at Bellagio. Congratulations to everyone who came out to play and had a great time benefiting charity while doing so. Now, let's play poker!

Linda is available to host poker events and seminars. You can contact her through her website at