Score one for the older generation | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Score one for the older generation

Provided to the Tribune

Provided to the TribuneJack Larson

STATELINE – Poker may indeed be turning into a younger person’s game, evidenced by the recent news of a 21-year-old world poker champion. But 77-year-old Jack Larson demonstrated that seniors too, are just as capable of playing in, competing, and even winning poker tournaments.

Two days following Joe Cada’s crowning achievement at the 2009 World Series of Poker championship in Las Vegas, a very different kind of poker tournament took place at Harveys Lake Tahoe. Far away from television cameras and bright lights, a considerably smaller contingent of poker players assembled in a far more relaxed atmosphere at the Harveys Resort and Casino.

Reno-Lake Tahoe has long been a hotspot for Crazy Pineapple, which is a three-card version of the popular poker game of Hold’em. Several Crazy Pineapple tournaments have been held in Reno over the last twenty years. However until this year, no Crazy Pineapple tournament had ever been scheduled at any stop on the WSOP Circuit.

Leave it to Harveys and the dynamic poker team led by Steve Schorr and Vince Contaxis to throw something completely new and exciting into the poker mix. Crazy Pineapple is one of 18 “gold ring” events on this year’s Tahoe schedule. A similar tournament was at the 2009 Sierra Poker Classic last April.

The $300 (+40) buy-in Limit Crazy Pineapple High-Low Split tournament attracted a modest-sized field of 34 entries, generating $9,894 in prize money. The top three finishers officially collected payouts – although a deal was made when play was five-handed. All the action took place over a one-day period Wednesday inside the Harveys Lake Tahoe poker room and special events area.

The winner was Jack Larson, a retired high school teacher from Golden, Colo. Larson officially collected $4,947 in prize money. Perhaps more meaningful, Larson won his first WSOP Circuit title ever, which is yet another in a long list of poker accomplishments dating back more than 30 years. Larson has previously won tournaments at the Legends of Poker, the Eureka Open, Oceans 11, the Golden Nugget in Las Vegas, Fantasy Springs in Palm Springs, and the Peppermill in Reno. Larson also finished second in the Omaha High-Low Split tournament held earlier this week at Harveys.

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Before retiring, Larson taught high school English and social studies. He served in the Army during the 1950s and was once stationed in Germany. Larson has been married for 48 years and has three children and seven grandchildren.

The runner up was Preston Derden, who has numerous final table appearances in WSOP Circuit events over the past five years, including an astonishing five second-place finishes. However, for all his tournament success, he has yet to win a gold ring. Derden stated afterward that he almost nixed the deal between the final five players, opting instead to try and win his first major circuit victory. Derden also cashed in 12th place at last year’s main event championship at Harveys.

Third place went to Chicago native Garrett Levrini, who now lives in Las Vegas. Levrini has previously won events at the Legends of Poker. Other players involved in the deal who were not credited with cashing were Jason Stern of San Jose and Brent Carter, a three-time WSOP gold bracelet winner from Oak Park, Ill.

With 13 events now completed at this year’s WSOP Circuit at Harveys, the tournament series has attracted more than 2,000 entries and has awarded more than $1 million in total prize money. Still to come are five more events and several satellite opportunities to enter the main event championship, which takes place Sunday through Tuesday.

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