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Finding the Green at the Bicycle Casino

Winnin' o' the Green Tournament Series Marching to a Great Finish


Southern California fans of the green who are also fans of poker have made the Bicycle Casino in Los Angeles the place to be in March.

This year's installment of the long-running Winnin' o' the Green poker series has been skipping along at the Bicycle since the first o' the month. So many players have entered its tournaments so far, that, if the crowds continue, this year's Winnin' o' the Green will have been the most played in yet.

And the leprechaun hasn't even made his appearance yet.

The series is in its 17th year. The first year, the series was capped with a $500-buy-in limit event that attracted 81 players. For this year's championship, the Bicycle Casino is preparing for 200 players to play in a $2,600 no-limit championship hold'em event.

On Monday, the $550 no-limit tournament brought in 262 players and generated a prize pool of $131,000, of which $49,125 went to the winner, Kevin Blakey.

The top 10 finishers in this event all live in Southern California and all but six of the 27 players who finished in the money hail from the state. Most of the players who play in Winnin' o' the Green events are local players, says Sharon Silvas, Bicycle Casino's Welcome Center Supervisor and the casinos "Dean" of the Poker College.

"We've been having some really good turnouts," Silvas says. "This one attracts a handful of people who fly in and play certain events, but a lot of it is geared toward your local players."

The first 15 years of the tournament, the number of events hovered around a dozen, and the champion of the series was determined in a limit event that had a buy-in of no more than $500.

That changed in 2004, the March after Chris Moneymaker won the main event of the World Series of Poker. That year, the series expanded to 26 events and the $2,600-buy-in championship was added. Two $1,060 events were also tacked on. Chris "Jesus Ferguson" won the big event, winning $144,000 by outlasting a field of 144. Last year, 148 players bought into the $2,600 event.

Single-table satellites for Winnin' O' the Green events are held daily at 11 a.m. with buy-ins starting at low as $40. A $125 with a $120 rebuy supersatellite for the $2,600 event is held every evening at 8 p.m.

And although St. Patrick's Day comes and goes today, Winnin' o' the Green events take place until March 24, when the championship event takes place.

Between now and then, nine more events will take place, including a $1,580 no-limit hold'em tourney (Sunday, March 19), a $550 seven-card stud event (Monday, March 20), a $1,070 limit hold'em event (Tuesday, March 21), and three $285 mega-supersatellite events to the championship event (one March 22 and two on March 23).

On St. Patrick's Day, a $550 limit hold'em event is scheduled, and yes, a guy in a leprechaun suit will be there playing the part. The casino will also serve corned beef and cabbage to those who can take it.

And on Saturday, a $230 no-limit hold'em charity event that will benefit MADD will take place where $20 of every buy-in goes to the nonprofit organization. All the tourneys, except for the satellites, start at 4:15 p.m.

For more information, call the Bicycle Casino at 562-806-4646.