After besting close to 1,500 poker players in a recent online tournament, 78-year-old Destrehan resident Kenneth Turkington will head to Las Vegas, Nev. this week to compete in the 2023 World Poker Tour (WPT) World Championship tournament at the Wynn Las Vegas.
Turkington qualified for a seat at the World Championship event by virtue of his solid poker play on the WPT online app, which held a series of qualifying poker tournaments for the WPT World Championship tournament.
“I qualified, and they only took 300 players,” Turkington explained. “The 300 qualifiers [then] played for the championship, which was in November, and the top 10 won their entry into the World Championship in Las Vegas.”
This year’s WPT World Championship runs from December 12 thru 21 and includes four flights – meaning the tournament has multiple entry day plays, all leading up to the final event. Players who did not qualify for a WPT paid-for seat as Turkington did must pay a $10,400 buy-in fee to participate.
Turkington will compete against several thousand entrants in the 2023 WPT World Championship for a crack at a world record $40 million guaranteed poker tournament prize pool. The event’s final table play on Dec. 21 will be televised on Fubo TV, the WFT’s platform partner.
Turkington said he first began playing poker around 60 years ago while serving in the military; it was an activity he and his Navy shipmates took up during idle periods while adrift at sea.
“We played cards to pass the time away,” Turkington said of his poker-playing hobby. “That was before Texas Hold’em – and I’ve been playing poker ever since.”
Before he sold his business and retired several years ago, Turkington held a weekly after-hours poker game with friends at his Kenner-area fencing and access control business, Nu Arrow Industries. He later got into online poker with the WPT, which operates like an online poker club.
He now plays one night per week at Harrah’s Casino in New Orleans, where he and several local players regularly meet up to socialize and hone their poker skills. The Destrehan grandfather of two also occasionally participates in various local-area casino poker tournaments in the 50 plus age category.
“I don’t play poker for the money; I’m retired and its good entertainment,” Turkington said. “I especially feel [it’s an ideal game] for the elderly, because it keeps your brain active; you have to think about what’s going on.”
Rather than rely purely on lucky hands to win poker games, Turkington employs what is called a “trapping game” strategy.
“If I get a good hand, I try and get people trapped to stay in,” Turkington said. “I’m what they call a ‘tight player’ – I don’t like to play with junk [hands].”
The 2023 WPT World Championship Turkington is on track to best last year’s inaugural WPT championship event, which drew 2,960 players and included a $29,008,000 prize pool. The 2022 championship ended when Canadian player Eliot Hudon won – taking home a grand prize of $4,136,000.
“I’m looking forward to meeting some of the professional players that I see on TV all of the time,” Turkington said of the upcoming WPT tournament in Las Vegas, whose events will include several parties attended by various professional and amateur poker players. “I don’t look up to any gambler, but I do admire the skill of some of these players.”
The WPT is an internationally televised gaming and entertainment brand, featuring various land-based poker tournaments in television, online and mobile media. Over the last two decades, WPT has grown to be broadcast globally in 150 countries and territories. Founded in 2002, WPT is currently in its 21st televised season, airing regularly on the Bally Sports network.
The Wynn Las Vegas, site of this year’s WPT World Championship, is a luxury hotel and casino featuring two hotel towers and 4,748 hotel rooms. The massive resort property includes 194,000 square feet of casino space, 20 restaurants, 14 bars, two nightclubs, two spas, 513,000 meeting and convention space, 174,000 square feet of retail spa, a beach club, and the Wynn Golf Club – an 18-hole championship golf course.