[twitter]The Calgary Flames Ambassador Celebrity Poker Tournament went down at the Deerfoot Inn and Casino last night. $250,000 was raised for the Flames Foundation for Life; bringing the total raised through the poker event to over $2.7 million over eight years. I saw much of it flying across the tables in front of me.

You could rebuy for $200 during the first two levels, and guys did. You could add-on for $500 at the break, and guys did. Then there was the live auction. Private jets to LA for hockey games, a week in Turks and Caicos, and a VIP scotch tasting at a distillery in Scotland. All of them sold for thousands in seconds. The most expensive live auction item of the night was a private jet to San Diego where you would get use of a private yacht. The bidding was approaching $20 000 when I scratched my nose and the auctioneer looked and pointed straight at me.

Woah, no! I whipped around and he was pointing to the guy behind me. Phew.

Then there was the silent auction. It was the usual assortment of memorabilia, you had signed jerseys from all the Flames, and a few Oilers. There were golf clubs, golf bags, and bikes but only one item was listed as “priceless.” It was a collection of 4 jerseys representing Wayne Gretzky‘s career – all signed by the Great One. I didn’t bid.


The biggest perk of the night was getting to rub elbows with the Calgary Flames‘ players, coaches, staff, and alumni in a loose setting. Mike Cammalleri was at our table and he shared stories about how he lost his teeth, talked off-ice business interests, and about how he loves the first hour of his day when he gets to play with his 18 month old daughter. He’s a fan of Van Morrison, prefers to read or watch movies instead of playing cards on the plane, and is a frequent victim of teasing and taunts from captain Jarome Iginla.


Everywhere you turned there was a Flame. Tyler Moss to my left, Matt Stajan to my right. Across the room was Iggy, then I was between Jiri Hudler and Martin Gelinas. Mikael Backlund was bragging to Chris McGrattan about being his table chip leader. Ken King was behind me, and coach Bob Hartley worked the room.

In addition to playing for bragging rights, and a $5000 top prize, each poker player was trying to be the one to bust out the hockey player. Be the one to felt a Flame and you’d get the jersey off their back – right there. Cammy was playing tight, but when he played a hand he played it hard. 15 minutes into the tourney and he was all in with J7 on a J high board. His opponent flipped over KK and Mike was stripping and signing. He would buy-in another 5 times to generously pass his chips around the table.


The overall winner of the tournament was Rob Zimmer, from title sponsor Stephens Fine Homes, who won a $10,000 Poker Championship ring from Jewels by Maxime’s, two tickets anywhere WestJet flies, two 2012-2013 Top Shelf Flames tickets and $5,000 cash. Second place went to Ernest Wyder and the third spot ranking was claimed by Cory Akins. The last Calgary Flames player standing was Curtis Glencross.

I busted out nearly 4 hours into the tournament finishing 75th in a field of 391. It was a good time for a good cause.

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