Foxwoods' poker room is going it alone

Mashantucket - Foxwoods Resort Casino, a charter member of the World Poker Tour, has severed ties with the tour as well as with Bernard Lee, the professional player it hired in 2010 to serve as "official spokesman" for its poker room, which used to bear the WPT brand.

The casino has removed all WPT logos and markings from the room, which, with more than 100 tables, is the largest poker room on the East Coast.

Foxwoods officials would not discuss changes in the casino's poker program - apparently intended to reduce costs - but did provide a statement from Terry Chiaradio, the casino's director of poker operations.

"For 10 years, Foxwoods enjoyed a long and successful relationship with the World Poker Tour," Chiaradio said. "We are focused on the future and providing great opportunities for our poker players."

A WPT spokesman forwarded a statement from WPT's chief executive officer, Steve Heller.

"WPT and Foxwoods have had a long and storied history, dating back to the very beginning of the Tour," Heller said. "While the properties do not currently plan to have a joint event for Season 11 of World Poker Tour, the properties will continue to look for opportunities to work together in the future."

Foxwoods rode a surge in poker's popularity as a charter member of the WPT, which sponsors a series of international tournaments. In the spring of 2003, television coverage of the WPT's first championship at the Bellagio in Las Vegas fueled a frenzy of interest in the game. In 2006, Foxwoods announced its newly expanded poker room would bear the WPT name.

Foxwoods hosted its last WPT event, the 2011 World Poker Finals, in November.

In February 2010, the casino announced that Lee, a well-known poker player and media personality, would serve as the WPT-branded poker room's spokesman in the first such relationship between a major casino and a poker professional. The two-year deal struck under previous Foxwoods management apparently was not renewed.

"His relationship with Foxwoods is no longer," Jennifer Rosinski, Lee's publicist, said last week. "It was a business decision."

Lee, who played much of his early poker, including his first tournament, at Foxwoods, "thoroughly enjoyed his time there," Rosinski said.

As official poker spokesman, Lee wore the Foxwoods logo whenever he played professionally and represented the casino in its marketing efforts, she said.

Foxwoods continues to host nonstop poker activity, hosting at least five tournaments daily. It also hosts eight-day tournaments five times a year and other major annual tournaments.

Mohegan Sun, Foxwoods' nearby competitor, operates a 42-table poker room and has a partnership with the DeepStacks Poker Tour, according to Ricky Landry, the casino's poker manager. The DeepStacks Poker Tournament Championship at Mohegan Sun, featuring a guarantee of $500,000 in prize money, will be televised at the casino in November.

b.hallenbeck@theday.com

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