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Protecting Paws Poker Tournament Raises Money to Help Foster Animals

Protecting Paws Poker Tournament
People often dress up as dogs during the Protecting Paws poker tournament at Canterbury Park. (Submitted photos)

Annual charity event has raised $10,000 in three years

Kelly Day has been a regular poker player at Canterbury Park for about a decade.

He’s also a foster parent to a dog, Penny, and has another as a permanent pet.

About four years ago he got involved with Protecting Paws Animal Rescue, a Prior Lake-based group that helps find foster homes for dogs, cats and horses.

Soon after, he got the idea to have Canterbury Park host a poker tournament to benefit the organization.

“I just thought it would be fun to put together a charity tournament,” said Day, whose wife Michelle is the foster coordinator for Protecting Paws.

Protecting Paws Charity Event


10:30 a.m.

Sunday, Feb. 11

$50 buy-in

$10 optional charity add-on

The $50 buy-in event features an optional $10 add-on, which goes to Protecting Paws. Also, officials plan to have about five dogs, including puppies, on site for the event, as well as information about the organization. (People will not be able to bring their own pets.)

“The hope is that someone will just fall in love with one of them and adopt them,” said Caris Norberg, a poker manager at Canterbury Park who has adopted one dog and two cats from area shelters.

The local poker community donates added bounties to the prize pool, “which really adds to the excitement and value of the event for all the players who attend,” Norberg said. “My hope is to raise upwards of $3,000-plus for them this year.”

Over the past three years of the Protecting Paws tournament, supporters and players have embraced the festivities by dressing up in cat and dog costumes.

“This event always draws a very large crowd and is a lot of fun for everyone who plays, even if you’re not an animal lover,” Norberg said. “We are looking forward to having them back on Feb. 11!”

Day, who volunteers with Protecting Paws, is one of the players who gets into the spirit of the event by dressing up as a dog.

“It’s just a lot of fun,” he said. “There are a lot more entry-level players and it’s a lot more laid back. … It’s a great tournament and very social. Not as intense.”

There will be prize giveaways and bounties as part of the event, Day said, and he appreciates the support of local groups and players.

Day, who typically plays $50 and $100 tournaments at Canterbury Park, said he enjoys the social aspect of poker and the ability to outplay someone (or get outplayed).

“It’s just a really challenging and fun game,” he said.

Protecting Paws poker tournament at Canterbury Park.At home with his wife Michelle, Day has one dog and a “foster failure,” a pup that started out as a foster animal but has become a beloved family pet. Pictured at right is Molly.

And while Day knows what the charity add-ons mean for Protecting Paws (about $10,000 has been raised over three years), he said there’s also something in it for the hundreds who will participate that day.

“That many players, the prize pool is actually pretty darn good,” he said.

About Protecting Paws

Below is a Q&A with Keri Marsh, founder and director of Protecting Paws.

Canterbury Park: Tell us about Protecting Paws.

Keri Marsh: I started Protecting Paws 5 years ago after fostering for another rescue group. I never in my life could have imagined what really goes on with some rescue dogs, shelters, etc. It’s heartbreaking. A lot of people don’t look at animals like we do.

I have a passion for animals and love what I do–seeing the transformations from the most scared dog I’ve ever seen (literally won’t even approach people, or look them in the eye and cowering 24/7) to becoming an amazing family dog is the best part about rescue.

We’ve taken in dogs that were involved in dog fighting, rehabbed them, and they now live with other dogs and children. Their past doesn’t need to define them–it’s getting them to trust you and other humans and seeing them turn into these amazing family members: that makes every tear worth it.

CP: Will people be able to adopt the dogs that are at Canterbury Park the day of the tournament?

Protecting Paws poker tournament at Canterbury Park.KM: People won’t be able to adopt the dogs on the spot. We require an application, background check, reference checks, and a home visit.

Our adoption fees range from $268 to $375, and all of our animals are adopted out fully vetted–spayed/neutered, microchipped, up to date on all vaccines, and have been tested for Heartworm (if old enough)/feline leukemia. And sometimes we have thousands upon thousands of dollars into these animals. Currently, we have about seven dogs that are going to cost approximately $18,000 in medical bills. We obviously don’t get that back.

All of us are volunteers–none of us even get a penny. We do it because of our love for these animals.

CP: Why are you passionate about fostering animals?

KM: I remember five months into starting the rescue, a YouTube video was floating around called “The Forgotten Ones.” It was a few minutes long, but showed 11 dogs that were rescued from a drug bust/dog fighting ring in Georgia. Some of the dogs had to be euthanized due to aggression or having so many injuries. Some of the dogs got rescued. Some adopted.

But there were two dogs on the video that really tore me apart. Brandy and Cinnamon. Cinnamon was the mom and had scars and cigarette burn marks all over her legs, feet, face, everywhere. She was a fighter. Both in and out of the ring. It was obvious she fought in the ring–or refused–and maybe that’s why she was in such bad shape. But also a fighter because she held on. She fought for her chance at finding a better “forever.” She won the hearts of every shelter worker in the two-year stay at the shelter while being held as evidence.

Her daughter Brandy was actually born in the shelter and had never seen the outside of it for the first two years of her life. I begged and begged and begged for a foster. Anyone to give these girls a chance. I pulled them. And it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made in my life.

I am best friends with the girl who adopted Cinnamon and still keep up with the girl who adopted Brandy.

CP: What is the pet situation in your home?

KM: My pet situation at home….? Oh, boy.

Well, my husband and I own a hobby farm and are looking for more land, but we currently have 10 acres. On that 10 acres I have 42 fur kids.

I have nine dogs, 10 horses, two ducks, three goats, two bunnies, nine mini-pigs, and seven barn cats. All rescues except one horse, one pig and my goats.

CP: Anything else you’d like to add?

KM: I’d like people to know that again, none of us make a penny. Everything goes right back into the care of the animals–vetting, food, supply costs.

We are always in need of fosters and adopters.

Find more information about Protecting Paws Animal Rescue on its website.


Game Type Tables Waiting
2-100 SL Holdem42
3-6 Kill Holdem31
8-16 Kill Holdem21
4-8 Kill Holdem11
20-40 Holdem11
50-100 Holdem12
10-20 MIX13
2-100 SL OMAHA11
5-100 SL OMAHA02