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Philadelphia Phillie Cory Lidle Serves One Up For Charity

Ball Players and Celebrities Attend Tournament for Make-A-Wish Foundation

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These guys like to play.

On Saturday, January 14th, Philadelphia Phillie Cory Lidle held a Texas hold'em tournament at the Palms Hotel Casino in Las Vegas to raise money for the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

Lidle had no problem convincing his fellow players to take a break from the field and hit the felt to take a swing at the $89,700.00 prize pool.

"If you come across a poker game filled with major league baseball players, try to snag a seat. Or at least put your initials on the waiting list." he said. "It could pay off."

Half of the $1,200 buy-in benefited the Make-A-Wish Foundation and the tournament paid 18 spots. The first place prize money amounted to a cool $31,405 and $62,000 was raised for the foundation.

The event attracted 104 players, which was up from last year. Players started with $1,000 in tournament chips, but they could make a one-time, optional, $300 re-buy at any time during the first three levels for an additional $1,000 of chips, and since no one was willing to sit on the bench or head for the stands, 91 players ended up re-buying, which added another $27,300 to the prize pool.

Precariously missing from the event was Jermaine Dye of the Chicago White Sox, the World Series' Most Valuable Player and 10-year baseball veteran and New York Yankee Jason Giambi. Both the players had paid for their seats in advance.

Jason's brother Jeremy Giambi was right on time, making himself comfortable at table 11, right next to the dealer in seat one, and ready for the first "pitch," but his brother seat was notably vacant. With lightening rounds of 30 minutes, it wasn't long before his chips had been whittled away.

Someone offered to do a re-buy, in case he showed up later, but officials ruled against it. About 2 p.m., Jason Giambi finally arrived and offered his apologies.

"No problem," someone said. "You just contributed to two charities today," referring to the player's prize-pool and the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Jason Giambi stayed and supported his teammates while taking time to sign autographs, do interviews with the press and take photos with fans.

The fast levels would prove challenging for the athletes, celebrities and pro poker players alike. "Real" poker pros would have to adjust their play. Was it because they were playing against highly competitive persons with natural and developed traits such as strength, agility and endurance, which are necessary for any competition? Not a chance. The athletes couldn't have cared less about the money. It was ego that turned these powerhouses into maniacs at the tables. The action became wild and unpredictable. All that poker the pros could do was pull their hoods over their heads, don their sunglasses and turn up their iPods.

As players were knocked out they were awarded an official Major League baseball. They were also encouraged to have it autographed by any of their favorite players or representatives. It was just another perk included into the fee for entry.

Everybody's darling was Eric Cesar Chavez who bats left and throws right for the Oakland A's. He's appropriately titled "The Third Baseman," and with a look like his it probably applies to more than just the baseball field. The fans and press couldn't get enough the almost-30-year-old athlete. As soon as passers-by eyed the handsome Chavez they were a little more willing to pay the $100 cover to witness more of the event.

The California native was able to prove himself as something more than just another pretty face, when he bounced back from a loss to enter the later rounds. Chavez was knocked out just before the money and was clearly disappointed.

"I'm good at sports but I suck at poker," Chavez said. "Last year I was number 50 out, and this year I made it past 50th. It's all good. It's a win for me already."

David Wells was the chip leader going into the break, mixing it up with friends, and feeling pretty good. He also won all of his biddings at the charity auction, including a Rolling Stones guitar for $3,100 and a Toby Keith guitar for $2,500.

"I wouldn't miss this for the world. It feels great to give back once in a while," Wells said.

But his luck wouldn't last and soon after the break he was knocked out by two-time Cy Young winner, Bret Saberhagen.

Paul Felberg won the tournament after about eight hours of play, talking home $31,145. He not only won the cash, but got to play poker with some of the greatest baseball and poker players and celebrities in the universe including Scott Erickson, Lisa Guerrero, Jimmy Rollins, Mike Lieberthal, Thomas "Thunder" Keller, and Marcus Grunner.

Charles Poe, the Toronto Blue Jays hitting coach, summed up the attitude of the day the best.

"I didn't even come to play. I've known Cory and his brother, Kevin, since grade school. I couldn't miss this (event). I love these guys and I love what they're doing," Poe said. "I don't even play poker. I came out to rub elbows with a lot of my friends. This is a chance for me to catch up."

Poe had bigger plans for his $1,200 contribution. He decided to participate in the live auction, Emceed by Art Thomas and his wife Darlene, but Poe struck out against Jimmy Rollins who outbid him on a set of rims for $4,500.

Then, Chavez won the final $900 bid for the "Scarface" pictorial, autographed by Al Pacino. Over 30 items were negotiated, but Poe came away empty handed. So he took a swing later at the silent auction.

"It's my way of contributing without making a fool of myself against these guys at the table," Poe said.

Jimmy Sommerfield, tournament director extraordinaire, was more than pleased with the turnout and conduct of the players.

"I'm just here to have a good time with the rest of theses guys. This event is a piece of cake. Things run at a fast pace and it all makes for an exciting day," he said. "Most of these guys are just here to party with each other and it looks like they are going to make that happen, with or without us."