On Thursday, October 4, 2007, six Australian players, none being full-time professional poker players, will take part in a poker game held on a makeshift platform 90m above the cliffs of North Head in Manly Cove. Below the platform are jagged rocks that line the edge of the Pacific Ocean, and as the waves crash against the rocks, players will listen as they attempt to concentrate on the game at hand.
As players are eliminated from the game, they will plunge from the ledge into the ocean below. Only the single winner will be allowed to walk off the platform to dry land and claim the prize - an airline ticket to the Caribbean Island of St. Kitts, the all-expense paid trip, and a seat at the Extreme Poker Underwater Finals in December.
Putting poker players to the ultimate physical and mental tests is what Extreme Poker aims to do, and their previous events have proven that there are always players up to the challenge. Combining the skills necessary for winning poker with the risks of extreme sports has provided an interesting experiment thus far.
The inaugural Extreme Poker tournament was the Deep Water competition in the Caribbean Sea near St. Kitts with the poker table set up thirty feel below sea level. The players were pros and were all given diving lessons prior to the event. Elimination occurred when players were out of chips, ran out of air in their oxygen tanks, or panicked and needed to surface. Juha Helppi, Kenna James, and Phil Laak were the most well-known of the participants, and after only 40 minutes of play, Juha emerged, so to speak, as the champion. He admitted to being distracted by water in his mask and a lurking stingray, but he said that it was one of the most challenging tournaments he had ever played.
The second Extreme Poker tournament, the Arctic Freeze Out, took place on an Arctic ice shelf in Kemi, Finland. The location was chosen by the first champion, and Juha wanted the event to take place in his homeland. Temperatures ranged from -15c to -20c, and the cold was the biggest factor in the game. Players, who included Juha and Robert Varkonyi, were allowed to re-buy, if they busted, by giving up their jacket and playing in only a t-shirt. Robert lost his chips early in the tournament but chose to re-buy, playing the rest of the event in his t-shirt and running laps between hands to stay warm. His strategy was successful, as he came through and won it.
The third event was held in Las Vegas - over Las Vegas, to be exact - in an airplane 15,000 feet over the Nevada desert. Losers Leap was the name of the tournament, and eliminated players were pushed out of the plane with only a parachute. Phil Laak was the best known player in the event, but it was Nick "Stoxtrader" Grudzien who took the title in the end. He then chose to skydive from the plane anyway.
Competitors in the tournaments thus far have been at least moderately experienced poker players, and they entered the challenges with some confidence that they had the skills to win. In addition, though, they all had a penchant for risk-taking and the willingness to participate in the extreme conditions laid out in the rules.
So far, five of the six players for the Australian Extreme Poker Tournament have been chosen via the online and radio promotions, and none of them are professional poker players. Matthew Horton is a sales executive, Cameron Stewarth is a forklift driver, Hugo Asenjo makes his living as a restaurant supervisor, Matt Delbridge is a film producer, and Donna (no last name listed) spends her days as a sales manager. The sixth player will be chosen in the coming days, and all of the players will gather at the cliffs of North Head on October 4th.
The creator of Extreme Poker, Peter Marcus, said, "Sydney will prove the most challenging poker game ever with endurance, ability and nerves all being put to the test. Extreme Poker is aimed to test the physical and mental limits of even the most seasoned pub poker players and takes the much-loved game of Texas Hold'em to heart racing and exhilarating frontiers."
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