Card player Tony Sewell has survived a lot. Diagnosed with throat cancer, he has, at times, had to watch his play suffer as a result. Last year, at a World Series of Poker (WSOP) circuit tournament, Sewell could not hold it together. He had to leave the table.
Chemotherapy had made his vision blurry, preventing him from seeing the cards correctly. He also complained of being foggy headed during the event and tired. These impairments possibly cost him the title, something he has now made a goal of winning this year.
In April, the steadfast poker player, who lives in Shelby, North Carolina, made it back. At the Harrah’s Cherokee Casino circuit, he did what he failed to do in 2014. Sewell beat them all. The new Casino Poker Champion walked away with $78,000, in prize winnings and a gold ring. In fact, he actually won even more because he played in another tournament at the casino before the championship and won an additional $30,000.
The next step for the 57-year old cancer patient is the 2015 National Poker Championship in July. Harrah’s Casino and Resort in Cherokee, North Carolina will host the event. Sewell has a sort of home field advantage. His hometown of Shelby is just a little over 100 miles from the casino, making it a short drive for the national title contender.
Sewell enjoys a degree of fame. People admire his ability to overcome cancer and win at the poker table. To him, it is bit shocking. He remembers growing up in an era when poker was something played in private locations illegally. This was before major casino brands, such as Harrah’s, would have establishments located all across the country.
From July 23 to August 2, 2015, Tony Sewell and up to 200 others will compete for the title of national poker champion. This year marks the 11th of the World Series of Poker circuit.
50 entrants receive automatic bids. Another 50 can play-in by winning. Last, there are 100 more slots open to qualified poker players able to afford a $10,000 entry fee. Organizers will use the amount raised in this manner to augment the winning pot.
Harrah’s in Cherokee and ESPN may take the poker trade further mainstream this year. ESPN announced plans to broadcast two hours of filmed competition content on August 18 at 9 p.m. Eastern time. Check local listings for specific air time and rebroadcast coverage.
The tournament is no smaller matter, as Sewell could attest. There is at least $1 million of prize money up for grabs. Champion Dominik Nitsche won $352,000, last year. This year’s victor could win even more in money and gold jewelry.
With so much at stake, it is easy to see why Sewell would continue playing despite having serious throat cancer. Then again, as is true of many enthusiastic gamblers, perhaps he loves the thrill of the game and the camaraderie of being around like-minded people. He really took it to the next level.
It is not certain how much of the remainder of the casino management will leave open to non-tournament players. Anyone planning to be in the area during that period should contact Harrah’s about space before arriving.