A record number of players turned out Saturday for the Cards for the Cure poker tournament and fundraiser at the Hyatt Regency Wichita, organizers said.
More than 930 players participated in the 3-year-old fundraiser that benefits the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Mid-Kansas Affiliate, said Spike Anderson, a Wichita businessman who founded and organizes the tournament.
Last year, 450 played in the tournament. And in its founding year, 890 came out.
“What drew them back was cash prizes,” Anderson said.
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For the first time, cash prizes were being awarded to the top 50 players, ranging from $200 for the 50th best player to $10,000 for the top player.
“We had prizes (the last two years) but they weren’t cash,” he said. “They probably weren’t viewed as valuable prizes.”
This year’s tournament also was shortened from two days to one. And, players could sign up as teams, similar to the teams that participate in the Komen Race for the Cure, the organization’s biggest fundraiser of the year.
“We heard feedback that if we make it a one-day deal, ‘I will come back and play,’ ” Anderson said.
He said it takes about 70 volunteers to run the tournament and the pre-tournament VIP party that was held Friday night at the Hampton Inn at Kansas Star Casino in Mulvane. The tournament also has about 28 corporate sponsors.
Money is raised through ticket sales to the VIP party, a suggested $100 donation for each player in the poker tournament, and a $199 Girls Night Out package, which includes admission to tournament play as well as a one-hour massage at Healing Waters and a four-course meal for two at YaYa’s Euro Bistro or Hereford House.
Lindsay Smith, executive director of the Mid-Kansas Affiliate, said the tournament is the organization’s second-largest fundraiser and a “critical” part of the community grants it provides for safety-net clinics, education and services such as screening mammograms.
“It’s huge,” she said, adding that last year Mid-Kansas provided more than $500,000 in community grants to organizations in 95 Kansas counties.
“It’s these people coming out to play (in the tournament) who fund these grants,” Smith said.
Anderson, who for eight years has organized an annual poker tournament in Valley Center that funds college scholarships for Valley Center High School seniors, said the idea for the tournament came from thinking up the name, Cards for the Cure.
“I liked the alliteration,” he said. “I had the name picked out before I approached Komen.”
Since then, he said his affinity for the organization has grown.
“To me, it’s a fun event to organize,” Anderson said. “But now, when I hear the stories of (breast cancer) survivors, I appreciate it more.”