John Kocyla of Klamath Falls prepares to bet during a Texas Hold 'em tournament Saturday at the Ramada Inn in Medford. - Jamie Lusch

Poker tournament raises money for CASA

MEDFORD — Michael Spears stood firm with his pocket 9s Saturday afternoon at the CASA of Jackson County's third annual Texas Hold 'em tournament and raked in a $16,000 pot.

The win left him in good position to make the final table of the region's largest Texas Hold 'em tournament, held at the Ramada Inn Convention Center on Biddle Road.

Spears, 37, who landed a third 9 on the flop, knocked out two players who went all-in during the hand. Best of all, he said, it's all for charity.

"Hey, I'm sitting with a little more than $32,000 so I feel good right now," Spears said. "But it's the charity aspect that put me at the table today."

Jennifer Mylenek, the executive director of CASA — the county's Court Appointed Special Advocates for children program — was happy with Saturday's turnout, which was down for the first time because of the gloomy economy.

The first tournament three years ago featured 30 tables and players had to be turned away because seats filled up so quickly, Mylenek said.

However, the region's high jobless rate continues to take a toll on charity events.

"We usually have between 200 and 300 players," Mylenek said. "This year we're at around 125, but it still helps."

Proceeds from the tournament go to CASA, and this year's event will raise around $8,000 for CASA after all is said and done, Mylenek said.

The overall winner took home around $2,700 and a $2,000 gold bracelet donated by Father & Son Jewelers. The tournament pays the top 15 finishers.

Light-hearted banter emanated from some tables, while others remained mostly silent as players focused on their hands.

Among the lucky charms sitting on the felt before some players were a fox figurine, a stone frog and a severed rubber ducky head.

Mylenek expected the tournament to slip late into the evening as players were slowly thinned out between each round.

Eric Shakleford, 23, of California, swiped a large pot early on with a hand that started with pocket aces. He enjoyed the low-key feel among the players.

"The people are pretty cool," he said. "The fact that it's for a good cause helps."

Despite the $8,000 injection, CASA is desperate for volunteers and funding, Mylenek said.

"We could use at least 100 more volunteers," she said. "We have around 500 abused children in the county who need advocates."

A CASA volunteer is appointed by a judge to a child's case. The volunteer is responsible for taking the time to find out as much about the child as possible, so that when the child's case appears in court, the judge can decide what's best for the child's future.

To volunteer or learn more, call 734-2272. To make a contribution, mail a check to CASA at 613 Market St., Medford, OR 97504. Online contributions can be made at

Reach reporter Chris Conrad at 776-4471; or e-mail

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