Steve Stilts is hoping luck is on his side when he travels to Las Vegas this week. While he is hoping to win big, he also hopes to raise money for two local charities. Thats why he thought he might try to give luck a little boost.
Stilts, who is known as Slim, is playing in the World Series of
Poker Main Event tournament at the Rio Suites Casino in Las Vegas. The
opening rounds are played on July 6, 7 and 8. Players got to choose
their day to play, and Stilts chose July 7.
"Im hoping 070707 are lucky numbers," he said. "Thats the reason I picked that date to play. Its supposed to be a lucky day. Hopefully it will be for everybody," he said.
Several of his friends are helping him pay the $10,000 buy-in to the tournament. There will be 9,000 people playing to win the $12 million purse. If he wins, his supporters get a percentage of the winnings and charity gets a portion of his percentage.
Stilts said he and several friends who play poker together decided that the winner of their tournament would have a great prize this year. The other players would help send the winner to Vegas to play in the World Series tournament. Stilts won the tournament and will represent the group at the Vegas table.
About 20 of Stilts friends are going out to support him. Stilts hopes the group will get a little ESPN airtime to say hello to the folks back home.
"Im going to try to get with ESPN when I get out there," he
said. "Ill be trying to get them to do something with the
Stilts said he realized winning the $12 million purse is a long shot. If he wins "big money," Stilts is going to donate 10 percent to the two charities he also supports with his annual SlimFest - Shop With a Cop and New Hope Childrens Advocacy Center.
"If the cards are right, I could get millions, and the charities could get hundreds of thousands of dollars, but its a long shot."
While the opening rounds are on July 6, 7 and 8 and feature 3,000 players each round, the second round pares the competition down to 4,500 players. On July 17, the eighth day of the tournament, the final table of contestants plays for the title and purse.
"Im a rookie," says Stilts. "The large majority are
professional players, and theyll pick up on the reads of
amateurs. There are people out there who play seven days a week and
make a living at it," he said. "Its going to take a lot of
Stilts said he has no doubt that hell be nervous when he walks into the room where 3,000 others will be competing with him in the first round. "I would bet my heart will be beating like a rabbit," he said.
Recently a group of his friends got together to show their support for Stilts and pose for a picture with him. "It makes me feel great to have the support of my friends," he said. "I look forward to having fun and, hopefully, were going to win some money."
Richard "Carlos" Ballard likes the fact that Stilts had already decided to donate a portion of winnings to charity. "For us to be here and support his efforts is a measure of who he is and what he does," Ballard said. "Thats one of the reasons Im involved and want to support him as much possible."
Terry "Hack" Tuttle cracked a joke when asked why he was going to Las Vegas with Stilts. "I really dont like him, to be perfectly honest," Tuttle said with a laugh. "Im actually going to see Wayne Newton. Hes my idol."
Rick "The Hawk" Ford said he wasnt a good card player and that he was going to support Stilts. "If he does well, some of the proceeds go back to charities as part of what were doing with SlimFest," he said. "Ive been involved with Steve on organizing the SlimFest event, and this is a good opportunity for me to have fun in Vegas."
Jeff "The Gambler" Smith plans on going to Las Vegas, too. Stilts and Smith have known each other for several years. "Hes a good friend. I wanted to help and show what I think about him. Hes a good guy, and we try to support him," Smith said. "You meet people in life you get connected with, and you want help them out."
Keith "The Pankster" Pankey said that over the last few years, the group has created a bond with one another by playing poker. "A few of these people have gotten really good, and were rooting our gift horse to hopefully pass the first two or three rounds."
Donna "Voodoo" Stilts is Stilts wife, and she said that while she obviously would be supporting him, if any shopping opportunities "jump out," she will take advantage of them. "So, obviously, I hope he gets to that final table," she said, with a laugh.
Donna Stilts has also been helping with the second annual SlimFest, which happened last year as a way to celebrate Steves 50th birthday and help Shop With a Cop at the same time. Donna said her husband enjoys helping charities and organizing events, describing SlimFest as a "labor of love" for him.
"He loves doing stuff like SlimFest. I tease him he should be a cruise director," Donna said. "He loves putting stuff together. He enjoys people. Hes a great people person."
April "The Player" Johnson praised Stilts for his charity work. "Slims the best. We want to support him. He would be out there supporting us, by all means," she said. "Ive not seen anyone who gets out there and supports things like Shop With a Cop like Steve does."
Todd "Video" Vittetoe said that while Stilts is going to be playing for charity, the members of the group also have a vested interest since they helped him buy into the tournament. "Slims a good guy. If he does well, we all do, and he does a lot for the community. If he doesnt win, Im going to break his legs," Vittetoe said, with a laugh.
"Hes probably one of the nicest people youll meet in your whole life."
Ronnie "Easy Money" Kincaid praised Stilts, and said he was a good friend. "Hes always been supportive of everything else we do. Were hoping he does well and wins the tournament," he said. "I wouldnt be surprised to see him finish way up in the field."
If he does, Kincaid has some plans for Stilts winnings.
"If he does win," Kincaid said, "Id imagine well be going to the Bahamas."