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FORGET the Las Vegas strip...

Because London is the place for saucy poker action next month when the Baller Strip Poker Championship takes place at Stringfellow's.

The Bluff Europe-sponsored event is one of the star attractions of the inaugural London Poker Festival.

The tournament is being staged at Peter Stringfellow's famous Gentlemen's Club in Covent Garden on September 21.

However, the pro players needn't worry about their modesty - as Stringfellow girls will be doing the undressing on their behalf.

The event will raise money in support of cancer awareness charities. For more information visit http://bit.ly/bmNUWg

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DANIEL Negreanu has re-ignited his bitter feud with Annie Duke in a blistering four-letter-word attack.

The usually charming Canadian criticised internet sensation Shaun Deeb for entering a WSOP Ladies Championship wearing a dress.

But he then laid into Duke over her support for the 'sex equality' stunt and her claims to be the best female poker player in the world.

The Kid, who has been involved in a long-running war-of-words with Duke, told Poker Player magazine: ''I like Shaun Deeb. I think he was just misinformed.

''But then Annie Duke sticks her nose out and says, 'Good for you, men, standing up for sexuality equality.'

''What a load of baloney! They are not standing up for sexual equality.

SO. I'm the big chip leader at the final table of the £200 NLHE event at the GUKPT Summer Series at Walsall.

I was returning for Day 2 after playing very well the night before, mixing up my play and enjoying a fair slice of luck on one memorable all-in hand (my AQ beat AA on board of Q K 10 K Q).

But with 77,700 chips, I felt confident of going all the way and winning the Grosvenor UK Poker Tour side event which had attracted 43 entries.

I'd take it easy on the first few hands, I thought, let others make mistakes and maybe bully a few pots. Afterall, the blinds were at 600 and 1,200 with a 100 ante - so were now well worth winning.

Unfortunately, things went pear-shaped on the very first hand.

CARD players are heading to Walsall for a top poker festival this week - and Sunday Mercury readers can win THREE tournament seats for FREE.

The Grosvenor UK Poker Tour (GUKPT), in association with gcasino.com, will stage the latest leg of their Summer Series at the town's Grosvenor Casino from Tuesday June 22 to Sunday June 27.

Players from across the country can take part in eight thrilling competitions, including a £200 No Limit Hold 'Em Freezeout on Thursday and the £500 Main Event running over Saturday and Sunday.

And today we are offering THREE lucky readers the chance to enjoy the excitement by winning FREE seats in an exclusive on-line tournament.

The Sunday Mercury has teamed up with gcasino.com to stage a free qualifying tournament at 8pm tomorrow night, Monday June 21.

The top three finishers will each win seats in the £100 No Limit Bounty Freezeout on Sunday June 26, where they could win thousands of pounds in prize money.

To enter our on-line tournament, simply visit www.gcasino.com/poker and follow the instructions to download and register.

The GUKPT is now in its fourth year and attracted thousands of competitors across the country last year. Former Republic of Ireland and Aston Villa footballer Tony Cascarino won his second GUKPT title by winning the Grand Final at Grosvenor Victoria Casino in London, scooping a £168,800 jackpot. And local poker pro Stuart Rutter won Leg 5 of this year's tour scooping over £40,000 in prize money.

Further information on the Walsall leg of the GUKPT Summer Series can be found by visiting www.gukpt.com and on-line players can also qualify through visiting www.gcasino.com.

Here's how to enter the exclusive Mercury tournament tomorrow night.

1. Visit www.gcasino.com/poker

2. Follow instructions to download poker client and set up an account.

3. Go to 'Freerolls' within the tournaments section of lobby and find 'Sunday Mercury GUKPT Freeroll'.

4. Register for the tournament using the password: mercury

If you already have a Blue Square poker account, you can log into gcasino poker using your existing username and password.

THE Grosvenor UK Poker Tour Summer Series arrives at Walsall on Tuesday - and the Sunday Mercury is offering THREE FREE SEATS.

The event, in association with gcasino.com, takes place at the town's Grosvenor Casino from Tuesday June 22 to Sunday June 27.

Players from across the country can take part in eight thrilling competitions, including a £200 No Limit Hold 'Em Freezeout on Thursday and the £500 Main Event running over Saturday and Sunday.

Details of how to win FREE seats to one of the events will be revealed in the Sunday Mercury this weekend.

So get a paper... and get involved!

* Further information on the Walsall leg of the GUKPT Summer Series can be found by visiting www.gukpt.com and on-line players can also qualify through visiting www.gcasino.com.

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TWO weeks ago he won the Coventry Grosvenor UK Poker Tour main event, scooping a $68,000 jackpot.

Now Birmingham pro Stuart Rutter has finished a magnificent third in the $5,000 No Limit Shootout event at the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas - picking up a monster $180,000 payday.

Incredibly, Neil ''Bad Beat'' Channing made it a stunning double success for the Brits, earning $272,000 by coming second in the same event, which had attracted a strong field of 358.

But he sadly lost out to American Joshua Tieman in the heads-up, just missing out on a bracelet and a cool $441,000.

To hear Stuart talking about his amazing performance, visit UK Poker News on http://bit.ly/9xRPrV

IS there no end to the talent of poker's sexiest star Liv Boeree?

The Iron Maiden demolished all before her when she won the San Remo EPT earlier this year, picking up a cool £1 million.

But away from the tables a YouTube clip has revealed she can really play the axe as well as the next man - even if that man is Slash.

Watch her tackle Kissing the Shadows by Children of Bodom to see what I mean...

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SHE'S the glamorous face of the European Poker Tour who has won the respect of players and fans, on and off the table.

But blonde bombshell Michelle Orpe admits she had to fight to be taken seriously when she started out in the testosterone-fuelled sport.

She began her TV career on Channel 5's Rem Con Raiders and European Drag Racing, and was then offered a presenting role on Sky's hugely popular Poker Night Live.

There was only one problem - Michelle had never played the game, sparking a backlash from cynical male fans of the cult show.

She said: ''Even before I'd started, some fans began an on-line campaign called Get Rid Of The Dumb Blonde.

''But I told them that the whole idea was that I'd be learning how to play from the poker experts on the show, advice they could benefit from too.

''I also issued a challenge to them: come back in three months and take me on in a tournament.

''Many did just that in a Beat the Presenter competition - and I managed to win 60 per cent of the matches!''

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A FORMER Midlands decorator can now afford to really paint the town red - after becoming a poker millionaire.

Dad-of-three Julian Thew used to grind out a living with a paintbrush and also worked as a delivery driver.

But his life changed when he took a gamble by becoming a full-time poker professional - as he has now earned an astonishing £1.7 million in winnings.

Julian, 42, hopes to land another huge jackpot when the PokerStars UK and Ireland Poker Tour (UKIPT) comes to his home town of Nottingham this week.

"I've done all sorts to earn a living in the past," the card player told the Sunday Mercury.

"I was a painter and decorator and even delivered exhausts for a motor parts company before eventually becoming an engineering draftsman.

''But I turned professional five years ago - and haven't worked since."

EIGHT poker players are left competing for the EPT Monte Carlo Grand Final - with a 1.7 million euro jackpot at stake.

And tournament sponsors PokerStars are well represented with SIX finalists either being from their pool of qualifyers, or from Team PokerStars.

Lebanese PokerStars qualifyer Nicolas Chouity is well head of the group with a huge 10.28 millon in chips.

Roger Hairabedian, from France is the short stack on just over one million chips.

To watch the final live visit http://bit.ly/bGHeHq

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