The Derby Poker Tourney Was a Star-studded Evening
Kicking Off the Kentucky Derby Weekend


This was the official website for the Derby Poker Tourney held at the Louisville Palace. The tourney, kicking off the beginning of the festive Kentucky Derby weekend was a star-studded evening combining high-stakes poker and celebrity hobnobbing all in the name of charity.
Content is from the site's 2010 - 2011 archived pages as well as from other sources.

Take a nostalgic trip back....


PPA sponsors Derby Poker Tourney in Kentucky, U S and A

BY Becky Liggero ON April 30, 2010 /

For the second consecutive year, The Louisville Palace will be transformed into the hottest poker room and celebrity welcome party in the city to kick off the weekend of Derby festivities.

Hall of Fame coach Denny Crum and poker professionals Phil Hellmuth, Jr. and Robert Williamson III will once again team up for their annual Derby Poker Championship, a pro-celebrity charity event held Thursday, May 5th at The Louisville Palace Theatre.

The star-studded evening will be a combination of high-stakes poker and celebrity hob-knobbing at the historic entertainment facility all in the name of charity. Proceeds from the event directly benefit Louisville-based, Blessings in a Backpack and The Health & Climate Foundation.

The evening will feature a celebrity Texas Hold ‘em Tournament that will be emceed by Hellmuth who is considered to be the best poker player in the world with 11 World Series of Poker victories.

In addition, Denny CrumRobert Williamson III, also a World Series of poker champion, and an array of other poker pros and celebrities will play in the tournament and mingle with the crowd. “The chances of playing football with Peyton Manning, or basketball with Michael Jordan are pretty slim.” Commented event producer, G. Douglas Dreisbach. “However, at the Derby Poker Championship, you might find yourself playing cards with some of the best poker players in the world as well as some big time celebrities.”

In addition to the poker tournament, the event will also feature themed food and drink stations, music, live performance artists showcasing their skills and other Derby-esque entertainment. “We cater to everyone, poker players, party goers and companies entertaining clients all while raising funds and awareness for our beneficiary charities.” Added Dreisbach. “We will have drink stations set up representing Kentucky bourbon, tequila and other spirits as well as wine tasting from some premier wine producers. In addition, each station will be accompanied by food that reflects each theme. Add to the mix some music and world-class artists, and you have a great party to kick off Derby!” 

The 2010 event drew 110 players in the tournament and approximately 200 spectators raising almost $50,000 that was split between the two beneficiary charities.

It was a star-studded evening with limousines lining the street in front of the Palace Theatre as onlookers took pictures and tried to get a glimpse of the celebrities on the red carpet.

In addition to the all-star hosts of the event, other celebrities and poker pros who played in the tournament or attended the event included comedian Ron White, best-selling author Nora Roberts, poker pros Chris “Jesus” FergusonTiffany Michelle and Beth Shak, actors Oscar Nunez (The Office), Jesse Spencer(House) and Ken Davitian (Borat), actress Jennifer Elise Cox (The Brady Bunch) and athletes including U.S. Ryder Cup Captain Corey PavinPaul HornungWarren Moon,Robby Albarado and more.

The top ten players won money including the first place prize of $14,000 plus a $12,000 World Series of Poker Package donated by In addition to cash, the top ten also walked away with a pair of Oakley sunglasses and the top two finishers also received a poker chip set that was donated by The grand champion of the 2010 tournament was Rich Muny who is also the Kentucky State Director for the Poker Player’s Alliance.

“We expect an even bigger turnout this year since last year was such a success” Added Dreisbach. “We have received several calls from celebrity managers who are interested in attending as well as companies looking to entertain their clients. This year, we hope to raise the bar in fund raising as well as building awareness for these great charities. Plus, we look forward to hosting a great party that guests will talk about all weekend long.”

The event is open to the public and doors will open at 6:00 pm with the tournament starting at 7:00 pm.

Ticket prices range from $75 - $225 based on different packages and the buy-in for the Texas Hold ‘em Tournament is $500 +$50 with $200 re-buys and add-ons for the first hour of play.


with the Official Jim Beam Derby Poker After Party!
@ Improv @ 4th Street Live! Hang with the poker pros and celebs! If you have a wristband from Derby Poker, you will get into the party for free!
At a $10,000 buy-in to the World Series of Poker!
Red Line

Go All-in for The Kids & The Climate

A Celebrity Texas Hold’em Tournament benefitting:

Blessings in a Backpack
Health and Climate Foundation

If you have ever wanted to rub shoulders with the stars or play cards with the world’s best poker players…NOW is your chance!

Join us at the historic Palace Theatre (located in downtown Louisville, Kentucky) for an evening of cocktails, appetizers and POKER! All in the name of charity! In addition to cash prizes for the top finishers, 1st place will also receive a $10,000 buy-in (Plus $2,000 for travel) to the World Series of Poker Main Event in Las Vegas...courtesy of

Phil Hellmuth, Denny Crum & Robert Williamson III’s Derby Poker Championship is an annual Texas Hold’em poker tournament held the week of the Kentucky Derby in Louisville, Kentucky that benefits local and international charities. The beneficiary charities for this year’s event are Blessing in a Backpack and the Health & Climate Foundation.

This is THE event you won’t want to miss! It is the perfect way to kick-off your weekend of parties, racing and the traditional Kentucky Derby festivities!


Thursday, April 29, 2010

6:30 pm – Cocktails, Appetizers and Event Registration

7:30 pm – Shuffle-Up & Deal
(late entries accepted for 1 hr after first deal)


The Palace Theatre – Downtown Louisville, Kentucky



This was the second year the Louisville Palace will be transformed into the hottest poker room to kick off the weekend of Derby festivities. And it was just as much fun this year as last year. You had to be there to really appreciate the experience. Phil Hellmuth was my hero back then and is still my hero in 2019. In 2018, Hellmuth won his 15th World Series of Poker bracelet in the $5,000 No-Limit Hold'em event, earning $485,082. Amazing. The guy is just an extraordinary player. In 2011 when he emceed the celebrity Texas Hold ‘em Tournament during Derby Week I actually got a selfie with him. Lots of good memories of 2011. Jump to 2019 I have been out of the poker tournament scene for a time now while following a program to learn how to moderate drinking. My excessive drinking started to really effect my poker playing and life in general. Friends finally intervened and coninced me to try a new program being promoted at an online site called LifeBac which I can now admit I certainly needed to do. I hated all those abstinence free programs like AA and refused to take the med, disulfiram which makes you sicker than a dog if you even take a sip of an alcoholic beverage. The LifeBac program uses both pharmacotherapy and pKsychotherapy, but the medication that is used is baclofen. Baclofen doesn’t affect the taste of alcohol or the pleasure of drinking. It simply removes the addictive components that lead to overindulgence and allows a person to drink in moderation. . That’s right, this treatment doesn’t require abstinence although many people do stop all drinking. I have fianally reached the proper dosage of baclofen and with the help of their psychotherapy am actually getting my drinking under control. My goal is to be back playing some serious poker within another six months. Bummer about Hellmuth's tough exit from the WSOP Main Event this year. But I am looking forward to the Kentucky Derby Festival Texas Hold'em Tournament in 2020. Hope it's still at the Belle of Cincinnati, docked at Kroger’s Fest-a-Ville on the Waterfront. It's going to another great tournament for sure.



Tournament Hosts

Kick Derby off in-Style! The Derby Poker Championship Celebrity Gala is one of the hottest parties of the weekend and you can be part of it! Whether you are coming to play poker with the celebrities and pros, or mix and mingle on the dancefloor, this is THE event you won’t want to miss.

Plus...a portion of every party ticket and tournament buy-in directly benefits Blessings in a Backpack and Susan G. Komen for the Cure/Louisville.

*15% discount for groups of 8 or more.

Phil Hellmuth, Jr.

Phil Hellmuth, Jr. is the greatest player to ever play the game, winning an unprecedented 13 world championships at the World Series of Poker, including his latest wins in July 2012 and October 2012, when he won the coveted WSOP Europe title in Cannes, France. Hellmuth holds the record for both most cash finishes at the WSOP (95) and most WSOP final tables (49) and his 'live' tournament winnings exceed $17,400,000. Hellmuth has always been more than generous in his philanthropic endeavors and is a co-founder of the Derby Poker Championship. 

Denny Crum

Denny Crum is a living legend in Louisville, Kentucky and a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame. Serving as the head basketball coach for the University of Louisville from 1971 t0 2001, Crum continues to use his stardom for philanthropic endeavors and to better the causes that are important to him.

Robert Williamson III (Poker Pro)

Robert Williamson III is known for his stellar play at Omaha Hi-Lo earning him the nickname “Mr. Omaha”. From commentating televised poker tournaments to playing charitable events world-wide, Williamson has taken the world by storm with his fun-loving spirit and eccentric personality, making him a poker favorite. Williamson III is a WSOP bracelet winner, with tournament winnings exceeding $1.8 million.

Celebrities & Pros

Thank you for your interest in this year’s Oaks Eve Celebrity Derby Poker Championship presented by Jim Beam and Bluff Magazine! We are excited about another great event to benefit Kentucky Harvest: Blessings in a Backpack!

Below is a list of some of the celebrities who will be playing in or attending this year’s event. There will be more who show up so be sure to get your tickets today!

The Derby Poker Championship is a must-attend event that kicks-off the weekend of Derby festivities. In addition to a great party, you will mingle with celebrities and poker professionals who are all in Louisville for the Kentucky Derby.

As we confirm celebrities and professional poker players, we will add them to this page so be sure to check back often!

The following celebrities and poker pro’s played in or attended the 2011 Derby Poker Championship.

  • Vicki Gunvalson
  • Chris “Jesus” Ferguson
  • Corey Pavin
  • Jennfier Elise Cox
  • Tiffany Michelle
  • Beth Shak
  • Ron White
  • Oscar Nunez
  • Ken Davitian
  • Vicki Gunvalson
  • Melissa Biggs
  • Robby Albarado
  • Corey Lanerie
  • Jesse Spencer
  • Nora Roberts
  • Paul Hornung
  • Warren Moon
  • Billy Lopa
  • Dan Shak
  • Layne Flack
  • Antonio Esfandiari



donate now

Susan G. Komen fought breast cancer with her heart, body and soul. Throughout her diagnosis, treatments, and endless days in the hospital, she spent her time thinking of ways to make life better for other women battling breast cancer instead of worrying about her own situation. Moved by Susan’s compassion for others and commitment to making a difference, Nancy G. Brinker promised her sister that she would do everything in her power to end breast cancer.
Though Susan lost her battle with the disease, her legacy lives on through the work of Susan G. Komen for the Cure®, the organization Nancy started in her honor. Komen for the Cure is the global leader of the breast cancer movement, having invested more than $1.9 billion since its inception in 1982. Komen’s promise is to save lives and end breast cancer forever by empowering people, ensuring quality care for all and energizing science to find the cures. 
Across the country, that promise is upheld by a network of 121 local Affiliate offices. At the heart of each Affiliate is a person or group of people who, like Susan, wanted to make a difference.
Susan G. Komen Foundation - Louisville
2301 Hurstbourne Village Drive, Suite 700
Louisville, Kentucky 40299


Go All-in for the Kids!
Hunger doesn’t take weekends off. 

The 2013 Derby Poker event will benefit Blessings in a Backpack, a program dedicated to feeding underprivileged children on the weekends throughout the school year.The nationwide organization currently provides food to almost 51,000 children at 360 U.S. public schools in 36 states who qualify for the free or reduced meal program and who may not have enough food on the weekends. Following a donation, a school is chosen and a local grocer partners with the program to provide food for the backpacks. Every Friday, students receive their backpacks with staples that require little to no preparation and they return their backpacks on Monday ready to learn.

Today, 12.4 million American children - one in six - are food insecure and one in five kids under the age of five have unmet nutritional needs. Without proper nutrition, it makes it difficult for the kids to learn, pay attention and behave properly. The intention of Blessings in a Backpack is to make a difference in their lives by providing the support they need.

It costs $80 to feed one child for an entire school year under the program. With your support of the Derby Poker Championship and Party, we feel we can make significant strides in helping out even more kids.


Blessings in a Backpack
4121 Shelbyville Road
Louisville, Kentucky 40207




The Derby Poker Championship strives to raise support and awareness for our dedicated charities. In efforts to achieve these goals, we will build a special package for your company that will cater to your budget and show your support of these important causes.

For more information on how to get involved with the 2010 Derby Poker Championship Contact

Event Tickets and Tournament Buy-ins: 1-800-872-4366 Ext. 103 or

Group Sales, Client Hospitality, Sponsorship's Donations, Group Sales and Media Inquiries: G. Douglas Dreisbach 502.777.3711

Blessings in a Backpack: 1-800-872-4366 Ext. 103 or

Susan G. Komen for the Cure – Louisville: 502-495-7824 or




We want to thank all of our sponsors and partners that make this event possible. Please show them your support by using their services.

Win Sponsors & Bluff Magazine
Jim Beam
Southern Gaming and Destinations

Place Sponsors

Supporting Sponsors
The Olmsted at The Masonic Homes
Bisig Impact Group
The Louisville Poker Tour
USA Image
Ashton Adveritsing
Ernie’s Print Shop
Unbridled Eve Gala
York Management
The Olmsted
Millennium Events