BY D.J. MORROW INGRAM
WINNING SMILES: It’s easy to come up smiling when you’re the winner and these two poker players are no exception. KTUL photographer Richard Powell, left, beat out his fellow media professionals in poker for the opportunity to play against poker legend Scotty Nguyen. Powell was one of approximately 50 media representatives that play in a charity tournament at Cherokee Casino.
For a group of professional used to working under pressure, making quick decisions and having to conceal any emotion, the performance was at times questionable as nearly 50 area media professionals got the chance to take lessons from and then play against poker legend Scotty Nguyen at Cherokee Casino. The charity tournament allowed every media participant to donate $100 to the charity of their choice and the winner, $500 to their favorite charity. Winning that evening was Richard Powell, KTUL.
The purpose of the evening was to introduce Nguyen, who signed a sponsorship agreement to promote the Cherokee Casino poker room nationally and internationally, as well as make personal appearances at all Cherokee Casino locations, host poker seminars and be available to interact with the local crowd of poker players to answer questions or just sit in on a game.
“We were the first to construct and open a casino resort, the first to deal poker, the first to install compacted games, and the first in the Tulsa area to make payments to the state and horseracing industry. Now, we are the first to sign a sponsorship agreement with a major poker player,” said David Stewart, CEO of Cherokee Nation Enterprises, which operates Cherokee Casino.
Nguyen (pronounced) win agreed to wear Cherokee Casino logo items at all final table appearances and promote the poker room as he travels throughout the country and abroad. He has also agreed to be available for at least 12 weeks over the next year to host seminars on poker strategy, play poker in the casino, provide poker tips to local players, and help the dealers perfect their technique. Nguyen is a former poker dealer.
The media winner in the charity tournament, Powell, was one of the cooler players around the tables filled with a number of novices and some who had obviously played a few hands in their lifetimes.
“I’ve played online and play with some of the guys from work,” Powell, a photographer and special projects editor for KTUL said. “I knew who Nguyen was and have watched him on TV but didn’t dream I would be able to beat all of those others (media representatives) to be able to play him.”
For his efforts, Powell was able to designate the American Heart Association to receive his $600 charity prize and Cherokee Casino gave him an official Casino jacket with four aces on the back that Nguyen signed. A photo of Nguyen and Powell wearing the jacket is now Powell’s wallpaper on his computer.
The media event was a hit with experienced poker players and novices alike due to the hospitality shown by the Casino staff and Nguyen. Casino CEO Stewart even relaxed a bit to play in the tournament.
Cherokee Casino and Resort is the flagship operation of five Cherokee Nation Enterprises (CNE) casinos. CNE also operates casinos in West Siloam Springs, Okla., Fort Gibson, Okla., and Tahlequah as well as two Cherokee Outpost convenience stores, seven retail tobacco shops, two gift shops and two golf courses. A sixth casino is scheduled to open in 2005 in Sallisaw, Okla.
CNE employs 2,850 people throughout northeastern Oklahoma. The company had a payroll in excess of $24 million in 2003 and a payroll of approximately $40 million in 2004.