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Wings, fans put on poker face for charity

by Andrea Nelson / Detroit Red Wings
Casco, Michigan resident Patti Miller contemplates her next move at the Detroit Red Wings Foundation Charity Poker Tournament.

DETROIT - For Patti Miller, there are three reasons she decided to attend the fifth annual Red Wings Charity Poker Tournament: poker, charity and of course, her favorite Wings players.

“That’s the reason we keep coming back, it’s a great cause too, the Red Wings’ charitable foundation,” Miller said. “Rub elbows with them, sit at the table with them, have fun.”

Attendees of the event enjoyed a strolling dinner, a silent auction and mingling with 17 of Detroit’s players at the MotorCity Casino Hotel’s Sound Board to begin the evening. Following the dinner and cocktail hour, the guests migrated to the casino’s poker room where the games began.

Miller, a 10-year poker veteran, couldn’t wait to improve on her previous tournament’s finish.

“I was the last lady standing but I didn’t get any poker prizes,” Miller said. “This year for sure.”

While everyone walked away with a parting gift and overnight room compliments of the casino, the top 10 finishers were awarded one-of-a-kind prizes courtesy of the Detroit Red Wings Foundation. The grand prize included a trip for two on Red Bird III during the 2014-15 preseason, while the second place finisher won a suite for a Red Wings home game during the 2014-15 regular season and post-game meet and greet with a player.

Third place received four tickets to an upcoming home game and fourth through tenth place won an autographed, game-used hockey stick.

“It’s good for the charity,” said Kevin Modreski, who was attending his fourth poker tournament. “It was a fast night but it was fun.”

The players enjoyed the evening just as much as their fans did.

“I feel like some people like are really becoming familiar to me and seeing them over again it’s kind of nice and to talk to them,” forward Tomas Tatar said. “I always have a great time here, it’s kind of fun to be here.”

But Tatar may enjoy this particular event for more than one reason. Both of the forward’s older brothers play poker professionally, and he’s picked up a few tricks from them over the years.

“Yeah, but I can’t tell them,” Tatar said with a laugh. “It’s a secret.”

One thing is definite, though: the 23-year-old didn’t enjoy the pressure he felt to do well in the tournament.

Jakub Kindl puts on his poker face for the fifth annual Detroit Red Wings Foundation Charity Poker Tournament

“Everybody’s putting pressure on me and everybody thinks I’m good now,” Tatar said. “I was playing a little bit too when I’m home but I’m not saying I’m good.”

While Jakub Kindl is more of a casual poker player, he was determined to finish ahead of his teammates. The defenseman even looked the part of a professional, sporting a pair of dark sunglasses and a hat to hide any hint of an expression.

“As long as I’m not the first guy kicked out it’s all good,” Kindl said.

Unfortunately for the defenseman, his poker face didn’t last long. Kindl was the first player to be eliminated from the tournament, followed shortly by Mikael Samuelsson and Drew Miller.

“It’s always tough getting out but I beat Kindl and I think Samuelsson so I’m not the only one out and I wasn’t the first one out,” Miller said.

Despite his early exit from the poker tournament, the forward enjoyed every minute of the annual event.

“Yeah it’s great,” Miller said. “Anytime you get out with the fans and interact it’s great for them, great for us to give back to them, be around them and also give back to charity.”

Follow Andrea Nelson on Twitter @Nelson_Andrea

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