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The final table of the third annual Sports Stars Challenge event is set and features presenter Kara Scott, darts sensation Wayne Mardle, snooker legend Steve Davis, former England cricket seamer Gladstone Small, Wakefield rugby league hooker Brad Drew and Manchester United football legend Norman Whiteside.

The event features sports stars, both past and present, taking their seats in the hope of being crowned the ultimate sporting poker champion.

The 36-player tournament format included heats for footballers, cricketers, sports presenters, snooker players, rugby stars and darts players. Each player sat down with £1,000, with the heat winner getting £6,000.The winner of each heat took their place at the final table, where six players are battling 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.

A spokesman said: “There is no doubt that Steve Davis goes into the final as favourite and that he doesn’t appreciate being continually told that! Kara Scott is one to watch as is Gladstone Small, who has fantastic table presence.”

First up was the presenters’ heat, which was won by Kara Scott, who continues to make strides in the poker world as a player after making the final table of last year’s PartyPoker Women’s World Open and becomes the first woman to make the final of the Sports Stars Challenge. She eventually overcome Polish presenter and boxing champion Agnieszka Rylik in an epic heads-up which featured more hands than the rest of the heat. First out was Soccer AM’s Andy Goldstein, followed by Rod Harrington, Alan McInally and then Chris Kamara.

The darts heat was full of drama – a highlight seeing Peter “One Dart” Manley crushing Phil “The Power” Taylor with quad kings. The eventual victor was Wayne “Hawaii 501” Mardle, who booked his final table spot at the expense of Holland’s Michael Van Gerwen in dramatic fashion. Mardle had J-2 and Van Gerwen A-8. The flop came 4-5-6 and the turn was an ace, meaning the only card that could take Mardle through was a three. The three came on the river and “Hawaii 501” erupted. Surprisingly, Taylor went out first, followed by Colin Lloyd, Alan Warriner-Little and then Peter Manley.

Snooker’s heat was fiercely competitive and the heads-up was a repeat of the famous 1985 World Snooker Championship final with Steve Davis locking horns with Dennis Taylor. Revenge was sweet for ‘Romford Slim,’ who cashed in the Main Event at the 2006 World Series of Poker and he booked his spot at the final table. First out was last year’s overall champion Ken Doherty, followed by Willie Thorne, Barry Hawkins and then Mark Williams.

The cricket table saw Ed Giddins go in as the firm favourite to win. Mark Ramprakash was first out, followed by Ali Brown, favourite Ed Giddins and then Min Patel. In the heads-up Steve Marsh lost to former England seamer Gladstone Small, whose poker was as fast as his bowling in his heyday. Wakefield Wildcats hooker Brad Drew triumphed in the rugby heat with Robbie Paul finishing second, Tom Voyce third, Matt Dawson fourth, Jamie Peacock fifth and 2006 champion Austin Healey out first in sixth. Drew made the final table last year, finishing fourth.

The line-up of footballers featured seasoned poker players Ray Parlour and Tony Cascarino, as well as Norman Whiteside, Steve Sedgley, John Aldridge and Lee Sharpe. Whiteside eventually triumphed after picking up pocket nines and making a set on the
flop. A paired two gave him a full house and Parlour’s 9-6 was dead in the water. First out was Lee Sharpe, followed by John Aldridge, Steve Sedgley and then the much-fancied Tony Cascarino.

For the first time there was also a stand alone football fans tournament made up of six players who qualified online through special tournaments on Football League club websites. Sheffield United fan Douglas Haig beat Sheffield Wednesday fan Peter Booth to win £7,000.

Last year’s winner was snooker champion Ken Doherty, while in 2006 former England rugby union international Austin Healey emerged triumphant. Coverage of the event is exclusively produced by Matchroom Sport and will be aired in the UK later this year on Sky Sports and distributed internationally. ‘The voice of poker’ Jesse May will commentate alongside Steve Davis.


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