Calgarian heading to World Poker Tour

STACY SHAIKIN -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 12:51 PM ET

A rookie Calgarian is hoping to ride the river to a Las Vegas poker victory.

Computer engineer Denny Amirault recently won a seat at a World Poker Tour (WPT) event Dec. 12 at the Bellagio Hotel.

"I am very excited and very pumped," says Amirault, who's only been playing competitive poker for six months.

The Calgary native is not the only online poker player to move from the confines of his home to the grand stage against such players as Daniel Negreanu, Phil Ivey and Phil Hellmuth.

Amirault entered a $45 qualifier with 80 players and the win propelled him to a free entry into the deciding match.

The entry for that second tournament was $420.

Amirault and eight others qualified for a trip to Las Vegas and a seat in the Bellagio tournament.

"The turning point for me was when I flopped a straight and a guy put me all in with his high pair of jacks," says the 36-year-old. "After that I took first position and never let it go."

Not that Amirault has delusions of cardshark glory.

"I have no plans to turn pro," he says. "If I was successful, I might consider it but the reality is this is just one tournament I qualified for."

Droves of online and casual players are looking to get to that next level with the growing popularity of poker on TV and on the Internet.

According to the World Series of Poker, this year's total prize money could exceed $100,000,000, a 65% increase from 2004.

Amirault plans to get ready for the WPT event by applying his skills in a local tournament Thursday at the Cash Casino.

"I want to gain experience playing at a slower pace," says Amirault. "I'll also be playing against players who make better decisions."

He says his patience, conservative play and high aptitude for math are his strengths.

"I definitely calculate the pot odds and work out my chances of getting the card I need to make a hand."

However, he explains his lack of experience in live games is probably his biggest weakness.

"I want to work on studying my opponents better," he admits. "I have more experience online. I have only played in three or four live tournaments."

Chris Moneymaker is considered the driving force behind the poker phenomenon of online players who want to take their shot at the professionals.

In 2003, he qualified for the World Series of Poker through an online qualifier with virtually no experience. He went on to win the tournament and cash a $2,500,000 US prize.

Since then hordes of poker enthusiasts have come to believe all that's needed is a chip and a chair and a championship bracelet could be in the cards.


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