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March is a Big Month for Poker at Caesars Palace in Vegas

National Heads-Up Championship and Jeff Gordon Go Back to Back


Caesars Palace's poker room in Las Vegas will have a busy next couple of weeks, welcoming everyone from racing car drivers to poker royalty at two high-profile events.

It all begins Saturday, when someone will walk out of Caesars knowing he or she is one of 64 players who will be competing in the 2006 National Heads-Up Poker Championship, which takes place a week later from March 4-6 at Caesars. NBC will show 10 hours of the championship on Sundays during April and May.

The field, except for the one player who will be determined in the $230 hold'em satellite event on Saturday, is filled with the invited reigning poker elite. Saturday's satellite has unlimited rebuys for the first hour-and-a-half.

Phil Hellmuth won the first Heads-Up Championship last year, and he'll be there to try to repeat. Like last year, he'll have to go head-to-head, over and over, against the toughest players in the world.

The prize pool is $1.5 million, and the winner will receive $500,000.

A day after the Heads-up Championship ends, racing car driver Jeff Gordon and his crew of celebrities and poker stars will take over Caesars Palace's poker room for the Jeff Gordon Foundation Poker Classic. The buy-in for this event is $1,000.

Caesars is preparing for 1,000 players to show up at the event. Prizes include a money purse and a seat in the World Series of Poker's main event.

Chris Moneymaker is slated to cohost the event with Gordon. Celebrity players include Chris "Jesus" Ferguson, racing car great Tony Stewart, Robert Williamson III, and WSOP runner-up Steven Dannemann.

Participants won't have to worry about making it deep into the tournament by avoiding the invited poker pros. In a twist, the pros and celebrities won't even enter the game until the last 20 tables are determined. Then they'll be dispersed among those who are left, and n the real fun begins.

The Jeff Gordon Foundation has provided continuous support for children and their families through the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, the Make-A-Wish Foundation, Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis, Indiana, the Marrow Foundation (in partnership with the Hendrick Marrow Program), and Jeff Gordon Children's Hospital at NorthEast Medical Center, and many other charities through their grant programs supporting children with special needs.

Caesars Palace's poker room is the newest poker room on the Las Vegas Strip, just opened in December. Included in the $12 million design are 6,000 square feet of space next to the main 30-table room that will be used for large events like the Heads-Up Championship and Gordon's charity tournament.

The main poker room has 25 high-definition television sets and is decorated with 11 LeRoy Neiman paintings that chronicle 40 years of history at Caesars Palace. Oh, and it also holds 30 poker tables.

Harrah's Entertainment, Inc., which got back into poker in a big way by buying Binions Horseshoe, which included the rights to the WSOP, completed its purchase of Caesar's Palace last year. Before Harrah's bought Caesars, the casino went 16 years without having a poker room.