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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

"Poker-playing priest has chance to win $1M"

From The Aiken Standard
By Rob Novit

Andrew Trapp's interest in becoming a priest dates back to fifth grade at St. Mary of Help of Christians School in Aiken.

He followed through on that path. Now 28, Trapp is serving as the assistant pastor at St. Michael Catholic Church in Garden City Beach.
Father Trapp has a new moniker in recent weeks - the poker-playing priest. He's good at it, too. In a tape-delayed broadcast from Los Angeles on Fox on Sunday, Trapp beat a professional poker player to win $100,000 - an unexpected prize he will donate to St. Michael's fundraising efforts for a new church building.

Trapp isn't through. He will return to Los Angeles with three other finalists in December for a chance to win $1 million for his church.

Trapp was there for the taping just over a week ago for the PokerStars.net Million-Dollar Challenge. After he won the $100,000 prize, he told only his parish priest and his parents, Don and Beth Trapp. So the atmosphere was surreal for him and his folks when they gathered in the school gym Sunday with 300 church friends who didn't know the outcome.

"The atmosphere was really exciting, like watching a 'Rocky' movie," Trapp said Monday. "I'm still amazed that I won, and I was really moved by the support and encouragement. I visited the different classes at school today, and all of them were excited about watching me on television."

But he's quick to point out to the kids that he's not advocating serious gambling. The online qualifying tournaments had no entry fee, and his trip to Los Angeles was provided expense-free.

Earlier, Trapp had gotten permission from his parish priest and bishop to pursue the poker challenge.

"They wanted me to be seen as a regular guy," he said. "It will help young people see that they can serve God and still have fun and be active, whatever their religious community is."

While growing up in Aiken, Trapp often played board games and draw poker with his parents and younger sister Lindsay, now a copy editor for a Louisiana newspaper.

The family was active at St. Mary, and Trapp began attending the church school as a fifth-grader. He started thinking about a daily prayer life and later that year watched a movie about Blessed Damien, who devoted his life to serving the lepers on Molokai.

That interest lingered for several years and then solidified after Trapp enrolled at Clemson University. He transferred to Pontifical College Josephinum in Columbus, Ohio, and remained there for seminary. He spent a year at a church in Bluffton before moving to St. Michael.

Trapp had learned to played Texas hold 'em at seminary and often played with friends there once a week or so. He was only "fairly good" at it but continued to enjoy the game. When he heard about the free online tournament last summer, he entered and, to his surprise, was among the winners invited to submit an audition video. Trapp described his work and his interest in helping the church on the video and was accepted.

Nationally-known poker player Daniel Negreanu served as a coach for all the players. The format was unusual; Trapp played celebrities one-on-one and defeated them, including ESPN commentator and former NBA player John Salley. That gave Trapp the opportunity to play Negreanu, again one-on-one, and each with the equivalent of $20,000 in chips.

The match didn't last long. Both players still had close to their original stake when Negreanu, looking at a straight draw, went all-in with his entire chip count. Holding one pair, Trapp called the bet. He picked up a second pair on the turn and then had to wait anxiously before Negreanu failed to make his straight.

"It's really amazing and scary," Trapp said. "Daniel is one of the very best in the world."

Beth Trapp said with a laugh that her son has said his parents will have to wait until the delayed broadcast to find out how he does in the finals.

"We're so proud of him," she said. "He's doing this for two reasons - to help with the church building and as a means of evangelizing. Andrew wants people to see he can be a young man in the priesthood and still have fun."

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