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2016 Norwegian Cruise Line Poker Challenge Draws 337-Entry Field

Huge Turnout Builds $337,000 Prize Pool With $84,250 Top Prize


Norwegian Cruise Line is hosting their 3rd annual Norwegian Poker Challenge onboard the Norwegian Epic ship from December 10-17, 2016. The $1,100 no-limit hold’em main event has drawn a record turnout of 337 total entries, easily surpassing the $250,000 guarantee to build a $337,000 prize pool, one of the largest at-sea poker tournaments in history.

The eventual champion will walk away with the title and a first-place prize of $84,250. This year’s winner will also receive a free entry into the 2017 running of this event, which will again take place in next December. There is a nice chunk of bonus money in the prize pool this year, because 25 of the 285 qualifiers were not able to make it on the cruise, so their buy-in will be added to the prize pool to create a nice overlay for those in the field.

The Norwegian Poker Challenge first took place in 2014 and has seen phenomenal growth year-over year. The first running of this event drew 186 players, which grew to a field of 215 in year two. With this year’s incredible turnout the event’s field has grown by nearly double in the two years following the tournament’s inception.

“It continues to get bigger and bigger each year”, said Senior Vice President of Casino Operations Jim Abbas. “We are hoping to continue to grow this event every year. This event is unique, there are not a lot of poker tournaments at sea and especially not on this scale. We’ve done this event three years in a row now and have no intention of ever stopping.”

Joe Cada, Ryan Riess and Lonnie Harwood snap a photo with a playerThe 3rd annual Norwegian Poker Challenge is being held in a 20-table poker room set up in the spacious Bliss Lounge aboard the Norwegian Epic, a 1,081 ft. long ship with 4,100 passenger berths. The event is being held while the massive ship is at sea, in between stops at three excellent ports of call: Tortola in the British Virgin Islands, St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands and Great Stirrup Cay, a private island in the Bahamas.

After setting sail from Port Canaveral, Florida the players were greeted with a welcome party that featured flowing free drinks, tasty Hors d’oeuvre and a meet and greet with 2013 World Series of Poker main event champion Ryan Riess, 2009 WSOP main event champ Joe Cada and two-time WSOP bracelet winner Loni Harwood.

“I want to thank you everybody for coming out. This is my second year on the cruise and I don’t plan on ever missing it,” said Ryan Riess before joining Cada and Harwood in taking photos with the tournament participants. “I think Joe and I agree that this is definitely one of the most fun things we do throughout the year.”

The first full day at sea on Dec. 11 will see both of the day 1 starting flights play out. The survivors of those two flights will combine into one field on day 2, taking place on Dec. 14, and play will continue until the final table is set in the main event. On Dec. 16 the tournament will play down to a champion.

Players began with 20,000 in chips with blinds at 50-100, meaning that each stack starts with 200 big blinds. The levels are 30 minutes long. The top 24 finishers will make the money, with a min-cash worth $1,685. Of course, every player in the event will have their eyes on the title and the top prize of $84,250. Stay tuned to CardPlayer for more coverage of this exciting event.

Those interested in participating in this great event in 2017 should head to or call 1-877-PLAY NCL (752-9625).