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Grover Beach man earns spot in pro poker event

jmellom@thetribunenews.com

Starting today and continuing into the middle of next week, the World Poker Tour and the Commerce Casino near Los Angeles will host some of the best poker players in the world, including Casey Hidle of Grover Beach.

Last month, Hidle won an online tournament in which he beat 2,200 other ClubWPT.com VIP members. By winning, the World Poker Tour will pay for his $10,000 buy-in to the L.A. Poker Classic and give him an additional $1,000 toward travel expenses.

The 36-year-old full-time paramedic is newly married and the father of two daughters, 5 and 7 years old.

He will be the first to admit that he is not a professional, but Hidle has been playing live and online poker for about eight years.

Since he began playing, it has been his dream to compete against longtime professional poker players such as Phil Ivey and Doyle Brunson, who are celebrities in the game.

“For someone like me half of the dream is just being there just to sit down with them and see how I stack up for a day,” Hidle said.

When his ambition came to fruition after the six-hour online tournament, Hidle said he couldn’t help feeling a childlike bliss.

After several minutes of jumping up and down, hugging his wife and high-fiving his daughters, Hidle took a moment to reflect.

“I was darn near in tears. I didn’t think anything like this would ever happen to me,” Hidle said.

He is looking forward to the challenge of playing against the world’s best, but realizes this is also a competition and that he is playing for what could be a life-changing amount of money.

Over the past nine years, the first-place prize at the L.A. Poker Classic has exceeded $1 million each time and has topped $2 million twice.

Last year’s winner took home more than $1.6 million, while a total of more than $6.5 million was awarded to the players in all. This year’s prizes will not be determined until the first day of the tournament.

The six-day tournament is the 17th of 23 events on the World Poker Tour’s schedule this year.

It won’t air on Fox Sports Net until June 24, but anyone interested in Hidle’s progress can follow the tournament’s coverage by clicking on the “Live Updates” tab at www.worldpokertour.com.

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