Since organized crime left town in the 1970s, Las Vegas has gone out of its way to become one of America's great family destinations. For Dr. Bruce VanHorn and son Archie, there's no better place to spend a little quality time together.

The VanHorns, who were in Vegas just a couple of weeks ago, left Ada today for another family vacation. They will compete this weekend in at least one of the 54 events leading up to next month's World Series of Poker Main Event, and, based on their recent track record, both father and son have to be considered threats to bring back a piece of the hundreds of millions of dollars available to players during the six-week poker extravaganza.

Dr. VanHorn and Archie both cashed in the $1,500 Pot Limit Holdem Tournament (event No. 4 in the WSOP) earlier this month. Archie, a former Ada High football star who, at 23, has been playing tournament poker for just two years, wound up 47th of 798 players, while his dad -- runner-up in the 1996 Main Event -- reached the final table (eventually finishing sixth) at the pot limit tourney -- one of a series of WSOP preliminaries to be televised by ESPN this fall leading up to the network's taped coverage of the Main Event.

"I only played four hands the whole time I was at the final table," Dr. VanHorn recalled. "What crippled me was I had pocket 8s and quite a bit of money in (the pot), and another guy had a queen-10 and caught a 10 on the river.

"I just couldn't catch any cards," he added. "But I'm glad to just get there. The World Series of Poker wasn't televised in '96 because they were feuding with ESPN."

For those haven't been caught up in the recent Texas Hold’em frenzy that has swept not just the U. S. but the world in this decade and don't understand PokerSpeak, Texas Hold’em is a game where each player is dealt two cards face down and tries to make the best hand possible out of five community cards that are face-up on the table. The dealer starts with three cards, called "the flop", and after a round of betting, two more cards -- the "turn" and "river" -- are dealt one at a time, with another round of betting after each.

In pot limit, bets are restricted to the total amount of money already wagered in the hand to that point, while the more popular no-limit (the format of the Main Event) places only one restriction -- the size of his or her chip stack -- on the size of a player's wager.

"I probably like pot limit better, because there are more decisions to make," Dr. VanHorn said.

A pathologist at Valley View Regional Hospital, Dr. VanHorn had a streak of 10 straight Main Event appearances snapped last season. And, although he hasn't cashed in poker's unofficial world championship event since 1996, he has earned over a quarter of a million dollars with 23 money finishes -- including 10 at the WSOP -- at tournaments all over the country since 1990. His $36,732 payday earlier this month was his third biggest ever and his largest since he earned over $71,000 for a third-place finish at a WSOP no-limit event in 2003.

Archie has also assembled an impressive poker resume' in just over two years, and his in-the-money finish at this year's World Series was his second in only three tries on poker's biggest stage. He was 57th at a no-limit event in his first trip to the WSOP in 2005, and he earned his biggest poker payday to date ($25,000) with a victory in the Wild West Poker Showdown at a Cherokee tribal casino near Tulsa last fall.

"Archie's playing real well -- he's probably playing better than I am," Dr. VanHorn noted. "He had a bad beat (at the limit holdem tournament two weeks ago), or he would have been the chip leader and would have made it to the second day (of the three-day event).

"Some of that stuff you can't teach," he added. "Archie's going to be a really good player."

The Van Horns will start their weekend Friday in a $1,500 (buy-in) no-limit event, and they also have their eyes on no-limit tournaments that begin Saturday and Sunday.

"I'm going to play in one or all of them, depending on how I do," Dr. VanHorn said. "I hope I'm just going to play in one of them, because that means I made it to Saturday (in the Friday event)."

Dr. VanHorn said he has cut back on his poker schedule in recent years and, other than the WSOP, now only attends one major out-of-state event -- Jack Binion's World Poker Open in Tunica, Miss., in January.

"I play some in Tulsa, but the only big tournaments I go to now are the World Series and the event in Tunica," Dr. VanHorn noted.

Despite their success already at the 2007 WSOP, the VanHorns will miss the Main Event next month to take another family vacation -- this one about as far removed from the glitz and glitter of Las Vegas as is humanly possibly.

"I probably would have tried to qualify, but we had a fishing trip planned," Dr. VanHorn said. "We're going to Grass Lake, Manitoba, Canada, and spend five days in a cabin.

"We took a one-day trip to this place last year," he added, "and we caught 180 walleye and northern pike."

Jack Binion's father, Benny, hosted the first World Series of Poker at his famed Horseshoe Casino in downtown Las Vegas in 1970, and, since the family sold the rights to the WSOP to Harrah's, Inc., in 2004, the Main Event and all of its preliminaries have been held at the Rio Hotel. Huck Seed earned $1 million when he beat Dr. VanHorn in 1996, and that was still the first prize in 2003, but with the increased television coverage fueling the worldwide hold’em craze the past few years, the WSOP has blossomed into an annual media event.

More than $12.5 million in prize money was distributed in the Main Event alone last year, and champ Jamie Gold earned a cool $7.5 million for his victory. Up to 9,000 participants -- all of whom will either pay a $10,000 entry fee or earn their way into the tournament through live or Internet satellite events -- are expected to compete in the Main Event this year.

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