Tasty performance by hospital chef wins $1m poker tournament

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The Independent Online

A chef from Blackpool who learnt how to play poker on the internet has won $1m at a tournament in Costa Rica.

Lee Biddulph, aged 28, beat almost 4,000 competitors to the top prize. equivalent to £570,000 - despite taking up the game only three years ago. "Even my teeth are shaking," he admitted to the crowd as he played his last hand, after seven tense hours of play. He laid an ace to his opponent's queen, causing his girlfriend to burst into tears of joy.

The exhausted card player yesterday landed at Manchester airport, promising to return to his job in the kitchens of a psychiatric hospital in Blackburn. He credited the win to the £115 Ray-Ban sunglasses he wore throughout the final - allowing him to shield his eyes from watchful opponents - and to pep talks from his girlfriend during breaks. He plans to buy her a house and a Kawasaki Ninja motorbike.

"My hands were shaking and obviously my heart was pounding out of my chest," he said. "But I'm a very down-to-earth person and wasn't going to let it slip away from me at the end.

"Not until the final card was turned did I ever think this would happen. I was lost for words, hunched over trying to breathe. I nearly cried myself."

He added: "To come back to all this attention is bizarre. I'm just a humble chef."

He will return to his stoves next week while considering a career in property development and several sponsorship deals to play in major tournaments.

Two months ago his victories were limited to Wednesday night games with friends. He took up no-limits Texas Hold 'Em, the easiest type for a beginner to learn, in 2002.

A former schoolmate, Matt Wheeler, played against him. "To Lee, like most people, it was just a hobby," Mr Wheeler said last night. "To be honest, he wasn't really the best poker player in the group, so this is a bit of a shock. He is just a normal guy."