Players battle for bragging rights and trip to Vegas

By: Brandon Roberts 

Caution tape cordoned off the table; the chips were divvied and awaiting the final eight. An air of anxiety hung about as players nervously paced or sat with fingers tapping.

The stakes: a round-trip for two to Las Vegas, $670 in cash vouchers, and absolute bragging rights. The players: Maasi He, Kekama Helm, Shirley Burrows, Honda Paleka, Sonny Reyes, Shannon Crivello, Noe Pascua and Bernice Traxler.

As the players were announced cheers rang from friends and ohana who had packed Paddlers Inn to watch the show. The characters began to take their places; Kekama smelling his flower, Shannon in shades, and the piercing eyes of Maasi from under his Red Sox hat.

The night grew on, cheers erupted, onlookers crowded in and all eyes were focused on the table as both players and spectators bantered, laughed, and held their breath to see who would be sent off to Vegas with pockets full of cash.

 As players were eliminated, spectators clapped and competitors shook hands maintaining smiles throughout. Maasi was cool and calm all night. The only words he spoke were “I raise”. In the end, luck and skill came together giving Maasi the tournament win. 

The free tournament began Nov. 8. Every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday players had battled it out until only the top eight remained. The total chip value on the final table was $50,000, split by percentage between the eight players. 

Kamuela Kamakana, Paddlers Inn owner and entrepreneur, along with Loke Kamakana, created a professional atmosphere for the Molokai ohana to enjoy and compete in.  Loke was crucial to the smooth success of poker night but offers much mahalo to the Paddlers kitchen, wait staff and security.

The tournament was the first of its kind in Maui County. Kamakana said he obtained permits from the liquor commission for Texas hold-em and Bingo tournaments. When asked why poker, Kamakana emphasized that “everybody enjoys entertainment, but we strive to diversify Molokai’s entertainment opportunities.”

According to Kamakana, the tournament won’t be the last. He is working with sponsors in hopes to pay the $10,000 buy-in fee for one lucky Molokai resident to enter the World Series of Poker. Another local tournament would decide the player.

Kamakana is also in the process of obtaining a permanent permit for Bingo so everyone will know that Sunday afternoons are synonymous with Paddlers and bingo. The past bingo tournament featured 8 different games and prizes ranging from $40 gift cards to pupu discounts.

For those eager to compete at Paddlers, a team pool tournament will be featured every Tuesday and Thursday’s at 9 p.m. with similar fun and prizes.

Congratulations to Maasi He on a spectacular poker game.


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