If there’s someone you don’t want to see sitting across from you at the poker table, it might be a guy who formerly served in the Army.
In military intelligence. Interrogating prisoners of war.
But about three times a week, that’s what Texas Hold’em players at Canterbury Park are doing when they face off against Tim Johnson.
Johnson, of Richfield, served in the Army from 1968-71, behind the lines during the Vietnam War, getting information out of POWs. That experience, however, hasn’t translated directly to the poker tables. (He did say he has won “a few” tournaments.)
“I certainly haven’t made a big profit. Let’s put it that way,” said Johnson, a retired police officer. “I play for the fun and entertainment of it.”
Growing up in south Minneapolis, Johnson didn’t get into poker until he went to college at St. Cloud State University, where he and friends would play 5-Card Draw and “every foolish game you can think of.”
But as soon as Canterbury Park opened its poker room in 2000, he was there, even before the Texas Hold’em boom that would come a few years later. He even remembers the cardroom opening around Easter Sunday. (Correct on that count.)
These days, Johnson almost exclusively plays small-stakes No-Limit Hold’em tournaments. He plans to play in the upcoming Veterans Appreciation event, which is free to enter for former servicemen and -women. Johnson said he hopes to play this year, “but you never know what tomorrow will bring.”
It’s nice to have so many former soldiers together for the veterans poker tournament, Johnson said, and the traditional rivalries between branches of the armed forces are generally set aside.
“It’s kind of a nostalgic feeling,” he said of playing in the event. “A feeling of pride.”
Johnson, who has six grandchildren, also his time in Panama City Beach, Fla., and northern Minnesota, depending on the weather. He said playing poker is a hobby and walleye fishing is his passion.
Does that cap off his list of interests?
“Other than my family, yeah,” Johnson said.
Set for 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 9, the No-Limit Hold’em tournament is free for veterans to enter.
The buy-in is $50 for non-veterans. No rebuys or re-entries will be available for this special poker tournament.
Canterbury Park extends a thank-you to veterans for all they have done for the United States.
As part of the Canterbury Cares initiative, staff will be making blankets to benefit the Warm Hugs program. The fleece blankets will be delivered to the Minnesota Veterans Hospital on Friday, Nov. 11.
–By Kris Janisch