Players turn out for poker tournament

Players turn out for poker tourney

LAS VEGAS -- For the second year in a row, Philadelphia hurler Cory Lidle organized a poker tournament and invited his baseball buddies to play with some top-flight poker players to raise funds for the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

"We did learn a lot last year," said Lidle, who broke even in 2005 and will raise more than $15,000 this year. "The main difference this year is the venue [the Palms Hotel & Casino]. We got a bigger room, a lot more auction items and we hope to raise more money for the charity."

One of the big draws at the event, besides the poker, is the list teammates and friends from the baseball world that Lidle brings in to play.

"I was pretty stoked that Cory asked me to come here," said Boston Red Sox pitcher David Wells. "It gives me a chance to get out of San Diego and come here and hang out for a day or two. It's all about the charities. I've been doing charity fundraisers for a long time, so when you can give back it's a good thing."

"Cory is a great guy," said Yankees first baseman Jason Giambi, who was a teammate of Lidle's at South Hills High School in Southern California. "He's had a great baseball career. I've known him since high school. It's fun to see all these guys come in and be a part of this. I've lived here [in Las Vegas] for the last seven years, and it's a lot of fun for everyone to come into my town and hang out."

"I'm just here to help out Cory and support his event," said Lidle's Phillies teammate Jimmy Rollins. "The Make-A-Wish Foundation comes through in so many ways for those kids, and it's great that Cory is associating himself with them. That's the type of person Cory is. He makes you want to go do things for him; just like when you are on the field, you want to play hard for him because he's giving you everything."

Ballplayers are competitive in everything they do and it's no different to them whether it's a baseball field or a poker table.

"This is a real poker event," said Oakland third baseman Eric Chavez. "It's not like you have five buddies and you're playing poker at somebody's house. This is a little nerve-racking and you have to know what you're doing. You can't come in here and slum your way through the tournament, there's a lot of good poker players here."

Chavez says he doesn't get flustered by some of the antics some hood-wearing, dark-sunglasses-type of players that take part in these tournaments.

"It's a little bit stupid," Chavez said. "But if anybody can relate, it's baseball players, because they are so superstitious, and all the stupid things that we do to get ready for a ballgame, it's completely understandable. It's just a lot of fun -- different personalities in baseball people can relate to -- and I think if you watch poker on TV, you kind of relate to some of those goofy guys, and I guess it's good for the sport."

Two-time Cy Young award winner Bret Saberhagen agrees.

"I didn't bring sunglasses, I didn't bring my iPod, I didn't bring a hat" said Saberhagen, who also played in last year's tournament. "I'd probably give away too many tell-tale signs to be a professional poker player and try to make any money at it.

"But it really is enjoyable, I have a good time doing it. Its competing and trying to figure out what your opponent has and it's just a lot of fun."

Lidle, who hopes tournament keeps growing in popularity every year, feels that offseason events like his help to show fans and members of the media that ballplayers really do care about helping those in need.

"Something like this tournament helps change people's minds about what professional athletes are all about," Lidle said. "I think people get misperception what professional athletes stand for. Basically, when they go to a baseball game or a football game, they want to get autographs and sometimes we are not available to sign, and its because we are working. And in that scenario, people begin to believe that, that guy's cocky and he should give back by signing autographs.

"But when we do something like this event, it turns the light the other way and shows people what we athletes are really about."

Ben Platt is a national correspondent for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.