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Wings ante up at charity poker tourney

by Dana Wakiji / Detroit Red Wings
Pavel Datsyuk signs a puck for a fan at the Red Wings charity poker event at the Motor City Casino. (Dana Wakiji/Detroit Red Wings)

DETROIT -- Petr Mrazek accepted his loss gracefully.

But that's because it was at the Red Wings' charity poker tournament at the Motor City Casino and not on the ice at Joe Louis Arena.

Mrazek was among the Wings playing poker with their fans who had made a $400 donation to the Detroit Red Wings Foundation for the privilege of rubbing elbows with their hockey heroes.

Before the Texas Hold 'Em tournament started, fans got a chance to mingle with the Wings at a strolling dinner at the Sound Board.

Even the players who weren't playing poker were there, including 19-year-old Dylan Larkin, who signed autographs for a long line of fans.

All poker players received a room at the Motor City Casino's hotel and a parting gift.

The top 10 finishers receive a prize, including $5,000 for the grand prize winner. The second-place winner gets a suite for a Wings home game during the 2016-17 season. The third-place winner gets four tickets for a home game in the 2016-17 season. Fourth through 10th-place winners receive an autographed, game-used hockey stick.

Fan Tom Isett of Chesterfield got the better of Mrazek with the better hand.

"I got pretty good cards," Mrazek said. "I got three kings and the guy, I think on the last card got the full house. So that was a good play. Three of us went all in."

Because Isett beat Mrazek so quickly, he didn't have too much chance to chat with the young goaltender.

"Total Red Wings fan, season ticket holder for about 15 years," Isett said. "I love watching them. Mrazek's doing a great job, I love him in net and I love the team."

Mrazek and Kyle Quincey were two of the first Wings to lose in the tournament.

"It's a nice event for fans and for charity," Mrazek said. "They can meet the players and have some fun at poker."

Joakim Andersson played last year but hadn't intended to do so this year but Tomas Tatar had to drop out because he wasn't feeling well.

"I'm not very good at it but it was a good time while it lasted," said Andersson, who was happy he wasn't the first player out. "I was starting to get a little nervous but then I saw Mrazek get up from his table so that calmed me down a little bit."

Bernice Lemanski of Harrison Township did not last long in the tournament but that was not her main reason for being there.

"I do it for my special needs son (Damien)," Lemanski said. "He just wants to meet the Red Wings so I play and let him go to the dinner and then he gets to meet everybody, get their autographs and have their pictures."

A few of the Wings don't really play poker, like Justin Abdelkader, but he outlasted several of his teammates.

"I'll take it, I guess," Abdelkader said. "Better than I thought it would be. I hung in there. I know the guys I sat with at the table all enjoyed it so it was fun."

Andrew Ochab of Grosse Ile was invited to the event by his friend, a more experienced poker player.

"I was at a table with Riley Sheahan at first and then Luke Glendening came to the same table," Ochab said. "They actually sat right next to me, so it was really cool."

Ochab was wearing his favorite player's jersey.

"Favorite player is Pavel Datsyuk," Ochab said. "He's hands-down the best player in the NHL. He's just so crafty with his hands, he just makes these amazing moves that no one else can top. It's just crazy."

After he was eliminated, Alexey Marchenko predicted that Gustav Nyquist would be the winner amongst the players.

Marchenko was correct.

Brendan Smith came in second and Danny DeKeyser was third.

Although Ochab didn't have much success with the poker part of the event, he had no regrets.

"Best part was meeting the players," Ochab said. "It's not every day you get to meet every single one of these Red Wings players.

"It was a great opportunity, an awesome time. I'd do it again."

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