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Ryan McLane

Ryan  McLane
Ryan McLane was a poker reporter for Casino City. Although he has a strong background in reporting, the same can't be said for his poker skills. He has never won a major tournament nor is he a professional player. Currently, Ryan lives in Boston and occasionally makes international treks to cover tournament poker and news.

More about Ryan McLane
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Related Links Tournament Cruise Provides Fun in the Sun

9 Mar 2006

By Ryan McLane

NASSAU, BAHAMAS - Ten Internet poker players entered the massive "Majesty of the Seas" Royal Caribbean cruise ship on March 3rd as amateurs – one finished the weekend as a professional.

Jim Davenport, a 25-year Newport Beach, Calif. native, defeated nine opponents to become's inaugural "Become a Poker Pro" tournament champion.

For his efforts, Davenport received a prize package worth more than $250,000 and a chance to spend a year as's official professional face.

When the final hand was over Sunday, a shocked Davenport covered his face with his hands, looked to his girlfriend and was only able to manage a feeble "Is it over?"

Now he'll get the chance to compete against the world's best players.

"This was an amazing opportunity and really proved that anyone can become a professional if they work hard enough at it," Davenport said. "I'm so happy right now, the feeling is impossible to describe."

Although Davenport's thrilling victory was the highlight of the three-day Bahamian cruise, the ten invited players were treated to an entire weekend of fun in the sun.

The party began on Friday.

Players drank their nerves away while getting used to the cranky Caribbean Sea. Nervously greeting opponents they had only known online, the players exchanged their travel stories and began feeling each other out for the final competition.

After an eventful night of partying, the players got a chance to leave the ship, fighting hangovers and the glaring Caribbean sun for Saturday's media day. The group received the star treatment, posing on the beautiful Coco Cay Island for pictures and interviews.

Standing on the sands of Coco Cay in ankle deep water, each player took their turn in front of the camera, answering questions for a video production that will post on their site this month as part of their "Become a Poker Pro" series.

The video will include all the interviews from before and after the tournament as well as in-depth tournament coverage complete with hole-camera technology that will reveal hands from final table play.

Saturday's media requirements gave way to Sunday's competition as players donned their playing attire, sunglasses, and baseball caps on Sunday, ready to sit around the specially designed table and play cards to see whose life would be changing forever.

Although Davenport took home the coveted crown, everyone invited told the gathered media that it was the trip of a lifetime.

"I felt like a rock star all weekend," said Bill Pero, the West Bridgewater, Mass. native who came in second. "Playing cards on a ship, being in the Caribbean for the weekend, what could be better than that?"

Most of the ship's guests were not cruising the Caribbean to play poker, but by the end of the weekend, many knew there was a big tournament going on and some asked how they could become involved.

Interested spectators stopped by on Sunday to watch portions of the nine-hour tournament, with a few guests jokingly offering to buy their way into the event for a chance at a dream job.

Although guests were allowed to come and watch, only the players participated in the main event, making them ship-wide celebrities for at least one day.

" just made us feel like we were someone important," Davenport said. "I got to walk around all weekend and feel like a professional, even if I hadn't won, that would have made the trip worth it."

For's entourage of representatives, the cruise was a chance to offer a different style of marketing to their customers, exchanging the normal pro player endorsements used by most online sites for a face with an "every man" feel.

The concept of "Become a Poker Pro" took shape last summer when invited players from their site who had qualified for major land-based-tournaments to compete for a seat on the cruise's final table. invited 69 players to compete in that online event. It took the majority of a whole August day to complete, but in the end, 10 players were left standing. All 10 of these players were invited to the cruise for a chance at the $250,000 prize package.

Everyone who qualifies for a major tournament through's various satellite tournaments automatically becomes a member of Team, including each of the cruise qualifiers.

Davenport will captain Team in 2006's top worldwide poker tournaments, including the World Series of Poker Main Event and the World Poker Tour Championship at the Bellagio Las Vegas.

Because of the popularity of the "Become a Poker Pro" event on their site, announced during the cruise that the second place finisher would also receive a free $10,000 entry in the WSOP Main Event.

Bill Pero, the second place finisher, is the first to join Davenport for a chance at poker immortality at the WSOP, but said there would be many others who qualify on their site as the year progresses.

"We are very excited for Jim and our company, this is a major milestone for both of us," spokesperson Glenn M. Cademartori said. "Jim is a big time player on our site and we are excited he'll be representing Team in the upcoming year."

After the tournament, a finally relaxed playing group let loose for one last night of celebration. The entourage gathered in the Majesty's "Champagne Room" for a final toast.

Handing out poker chip sets, champagne flutes, tournament awards, and a hefty $250,000 check, officials promised the excited group that the "Become a Poker Pro" event will become an annual event.

"We couldn't be happier with the way this turned out," Cademartori said. " is excited to offer this one of a kind event and we expect it will continue to grow and become a highlight for our players each year."

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