The last standing in 2019 was the first to leave in 2020.
Last year’s GRACE Poker Tournament Champion Steve Alford, as champions do, had a huge target on his back as he and 21 other players took their seats Saturday at Classic Wine Storage in Southlake.
The evening began with Shonda Schaefer, GRACE CEO, welcoming all players and guests, and offering thanks to all those who made the occasion possible. Balla Wright and Kindal Wright Kreamer were on hand to represent Wright Construction Company, the event’s presenting sponsor.
Robert Warner who, along with his wife, Lynda, originated and organized the GRACE Poker Tournament, spoke on the importance of occasions like the Poker Tournament, the GRACE Gala, and the upcoming Designer Bags & Bingo. These events, and others throughout the year, help raise funds to serve all those who come to GRACE for assistance.
Special guest Bryan Campanello–a World Series of Poker Champion with over $1,000,000 in winnings, shared tips and answered questions. Bryan offered to tutor players, for a special contribution to GRACE, should they need a pointer during the rounds.
Then it was time to deal. By sheer un-luck of the draw, Steve’s starting table included several players who were in the finals last year—a table of champions—and they all had it out for him. A true gentleman, and always a champion, Steve rose and wished his competitors luck.
Knowing a new champion would be crowned, play became more intense. Each successive hand grew more important than the last. The pots swelled as player-after-player vied for advantage, but found themselves joining Steve as a spectator.
Hours passed. Bryan’s advice was called upon many times as players fought to remain in the game. Spectators chattered with expectation with every action card thrown. Eyes darted from table-to-table to check on the chip leaders. All-ins brought gasps.
And then there were four. Cliff Collins and Kevin Townson sat to the left of the dealer; Ron Medaris directly across; and Ryan Fray on the dealer’s right hand side.
Each had amassed sizable deep stacks over the course of the evening. But this was the finals—with the four best poker players on Saturday night.
Special thanks go out to Mark Nelson and Terry Perkins, owners of Classic Wine Storage, and all of the generous staff at Classic Wine for use of the halls, and fine selections of wine. Classic’s director of sales, Clare Gillette, even went deep into the cellar to bring out additional cases of the most popular sparkling brut rosé.
Chef Ted Bilsky, owner of Scratch Kitchen—and the top five finisher for the tournament—kept everyone happy and well-fed with bacon-wrapped bourbon-glazed shrimp shooters, beef tenderloin spring rolls, his signature Teddy Cakes, and famous three cheese mac among other savory dishes. He finished with an assortment of “made from scratch” brownies, cookies, trifles and a decadent Dulce de Leche blondie.
Always thoughtful, Ted even served grab bags of treats as the guests departed.
Cliff Collins, the fourth place finisher, received a copy of “Poker for Dummies” and a certificate good for half-off a stake in next year’s tournament. Of course, all in jest—there were no dummies on the green felt this night.
The final three received RunGood backpacks courtesy of Bryan Campanello and the Campanello Family.
Second place received a fifth of Macallan 18-year-old single malt Scotch whisky. And the champion won hotel accommodations for two and a swag bag from Shannon O’Brien, and 50,000 AAdvantage miles from American Airlines.
A special mention goes out to Jason Fields of Michael’s Tobacco of Euless who donated a box of his finest cigars for the players to enjoy.
Always first in our hearts, GRACE is continually grateful to Lynda and Robert Warner for their time, creativity, guidance, leadership, and a million other things they invest in GRACE.
Thanks to all the players who made the evening come alive: Steve Alford and Ted Bilsky, of course. GRACE Board President Paul Bischler, Johnny Campanello, Doug Canter, Cliff Collins, Joe DeVincenzo, Sean Ford, Ryan Fray, Bart Gaskill, Casey Hege, Derek Holmes, Lanny Land, Ron Medaris, John Miller, Anthony Russo, Paul Schaefer, Ty Shafer, Kevin Townson, Karen Turner, Robert Warner, and Brad Wilson.
The night was a huge success thanks to their spirited generosity.
Desiree, the dealer from the Ashley Taylor Agency, smoothed out the flop. Hearts were thumping. One heart was beating so loud, he was afraid it would be his tell. Bets made. The turn. Checks. The river. All in.
Kevin Townson turned his hand. It wasn’t his best that night, but was it good enough? First small grin, then Ryan Fray’s poker face burst into a broad smile. Congratulations Champion Ryan!
Mark your calendars for Saturday, January 16, 2021. Ryan will defend his crown when GRACE will once again take over the Classic Wine Storage cellars for a night of poker.