Party Poker has released the dates for its PartyPoker.com Sports Stars Challenge IV, one of the most popular televised poker tournaments in Europe. The event will run from May 29-June 1 and will feature some of the world’s biggest sports stars, both past and present, taking their seats at the table in hopes of becoming a poker champion.

The Sports Stars Challenge IV will include some of the world’s best in motorsports, golf, boxing, rugby and darts. There will also be an online qualifier added to the field for the first time ever. The number of heats will increase from six to seven, with the winner of each of the seven heats advancing to the final table to battle it out until one of them walks away with the title. The overall winner receives £20,000 with second getting £10,000 and third receiving £5,000.

The motorsport table will feature Italian F1 driver Giancarlo Fisichella, while the golf heat will include both 2008 European Ryder Cup team member Graeme McDowell and Jean Van Der Velde. European football’s list of legends includes former Holland captain Frank De Boer, French World Cup winner Frank Leboeuf, Germany’s European Championship winner Thomas Helmer, Romania’s Florin Radiciou and Denmark and Liverpool legend Jan Molby.

Germany’s former unbeaten World Champion Sven Ottke will headline the boxing heat. He will be joined by Northern Ireland’s Commonwealth heavyweight and Prizefighter champion Martin Rogan and Poland’s female boxing champ Agnieska Rylik. The rugby heat will feature union’s former France and Wasps captain Raphael Ibanez and Australian league star Brad Drew, while the darts heat will pit legend Phil Taylor against Russia’s ladies champ Anastasia Dobromyslova.

PartyPoker.com players also had the chance to win a seat through a freeroll in the sports heat of their choice. The sports are European football (two heats), rugby (union and league combined), motorsport, boxing, darts and golf. Two online qualifiers will join each heat.

“We offered freerolls to win a seat in the event on the site”, a spokesperson for Party Poker said, “but the places were snapped up so quickly that we were loath to promote it too much to save the disappointment of players. This is a once in a lifetime experience for a select group to take to the felt with their sporting heroes. The overall lineup is the most diverse and international in the event’s history and more star participant names will be released in the near future.”

For the fourth consecutive year the event will be run by Matchroom Sport, a promotions company founded by English entrepreneur Barry Hearn. Matchroom Sport is typically involved in snooker and boxing events for the most part, but Hearn is thrilled to be involved in the Sports Stars challenge again.

“This is the poker event that the sporting world looks forward to and we have some great international names and great poker players competing for the trophy, big prize money and the ultimate bragging rights”, Hearn said. “We’re particularly excited to introduce the online element and the motorsport and golf heats this year.”

Past winners of Sports Stars Challenge are rugby union star Austin Healey, Irish snooker champion Ken Doherty, and television presenter Kara Scott, who won £20,000 last year after defeating Manchester United football legend Norman Whiteside heads-up. There is no presenter heat in the new format this year.

Coverage of the event will be aired in the UK later this year on Sky Sports and then distributed internationally.

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