Online poker room Ultimate Bet has started the New Year off on the right foot, sponsoring the fifth annual Merage Jewish Community Center’s (JCC) No Limit Texas Hold’em tournament. The event, which takes place this Sunday, January 11th, will benefit the Merage JCC Scholarships and Children’s Programs.

The $200 buy-in charity poker tournament kicks off at 3:00pm at the Merage JCC, which is located in Irvine, California. Rebuys are available until the first break, as are $25 add-ons. Up for grabs will be vacation packages, tickets to sporting events, and state-of-the-art electronics. The ten players who reach the tournament’s final table will take home an prize package, which, according to a press release distributed by the Tokwiro-owned room, contains t-shirts and baseball hats. Its winner will take home a UB hockey jersey, which the site notes is “similar to the one sported by Phil Hellmuth when he won his record-shattering 11th bracelet at the World Series of Poker.”

Ultimate Bet is also awarding seats into its marquee $200,000 Guaranteed tournament (valued at $215 each) to the top three finishers. All participants must be over the age of 21 with a valid photo ID. Ace Sponsors of the JCC tournament received one seat into the charity event plus recognition in publicity related to it. Dinner will be provided to those who make it out to the Irvine location and lessons begin at 2:00pm, five hours prior to the start of the tournament.

The Merage JCC offers programs for all age levels, ranging from infants to adults. According to its mission statement, it strives to be “the place to be for programs that will challenge your body, spark your intellect, kindle your spirit, and brighten your life.” Merage JCC has also hosted Men’s Social Poker. California is home to such famed card rooms as The Bicycle Casino and Commerce Casino, which are both located in Los Angeles. Bay 101, which hosts the World Poker Tour’s annual Shooting Star bounty tournament, is located in San Jose.

This is not Ultimate Bet’s first dabble into charity poker tournaments. The CEREUS network site has supported past efforts including Hold’em for Heroes, which was run by the TASER Foundation, as well as Ante Up for Africa. In the case of the latter charity, Ultimate Bet’s chief tournament designer, Annie Duke, teamed up with actor Don Cheadle to endorse the organization, which raises both money and awareness for the ongoing crisis in Darfur. A large-scale event that attracted stars such as Charles Barkley, Ray Romano, and Ben Affleck was held during the 2008 World Series of Poker in Las Vegas. In addition, Ultimate Bet has run several online promotional tournaments to benefit Ante Up for Africa, the most recent of which boasted a $2 buy-in and was held on December 20th. In that endeavor, the CEREUS network kicked in $2,500 in prizes.

Hellmuth has also been active in charity events, including appearances at the Poker Jingle (which benefited the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society) in December and All in for Kids (which benefited the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia) in November. He hosts the Hold’em for Heroes event, which raised $500,000 just before the Thanksgiving holiday in the United States. He appeared at the Ultimate Bet sponsored fundraiser for Eva’s Heroes, a charity started by actress Eva Longoria. Hellmuth emceed that event, which also featured Longoria’s husband, San Antonio Spurs star Tony Parker.

Registration for the Merage JCC tournament is no longer available online. However, its phone number is (949) 435-3400. Requests for comment placed to the JCC and Ultimate Bet were not returned at press time.

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