The Manuel “Pops” Palacio Poker Tournament Story

An Invitation to Great Fun and Action
But First…The Official and Authorized CHS Back Story

Many Cathedral alumni hear about the annual Pops Poker Tournament. However, most pay it little mind as with several of the annual events sponsored by the Cathedral Alumni Association.  Well hang on there for one moment Mr. Actual Cathedral Alumni guy.  This story is for you, so just get cozy on your throne for a moment and take in this wee read.

We here at the CHS Alumni Association sponsor some events that have reached an iconic status upon the Los Angeles social calendar landscape.  The Annual Gala, The Comedy Show, and the Alumni Golf Tournament are some of these events to name just a few of the many.  Sandwiched in this busy calendar is the Pops Texas Hold ‘Em Poker Tournament.

So briefly, who was “Pops”?  There have been previous articles that have detailed the often-described blessed life that Mr. Manuel Palacio lived and the vast array of lives that he touched while helping and working at Cathedral High School for over 50 years.  For our more recent Alumni, Mr. Palacio represented an indomitable, resolute and tough spirit to the students of Cathedral.  This man had hands that could literally cut you with just his handshake.

In the latter years of Pops life, we would meet and have menudo and he would share some amazing stories of his bravery during WWII.   We had to ask repeatedly to get him to talk about it.  Thus it was at one of these menudo story telling times that Pops caught us in a moment of silence and in between our gulps of tripe, maize, and tortillas.  He said and I paraphrase, “I want you guys to start a fund in my name and I want you to help the kids like I helped the kids.”

The old man had spoken.  That was it.  We were duty bound to follow through with the wishes of Mr. Palacio.

“Why Poker?  Why Not Poker?!?”

After Pops passed away, his funeral was attended by many of the same individuals, once kids and now adults, that he had helped while they had attended Cathedral.  Pops was a low key activist and his activism was to observe and determine who needed just a bit of help.

The kids sent to him for Detention turned Mr. Palacio into a regular Dr. Phil.  He ascertained that the root issue for many of these kids were simple needs being unmet.  He acted often to fill the void without being asked and without seeking anything in return, least of all recognition.

Pops wanted a fund to be left behind, a little something in his name, that the coaching staff of Cathedral could lean upon from time to time.  It was just to be a little helper, a little void filler.  So now within the Alumni budget is the Pops Poker Fund.

The first duty once tasked with creating a fund and keeping it funded is to determine the means to the end.  As a small group of alumni pondered this question, at the minimum we wanted to stay true to Pops and to do something that he would have liked.  Primarily, Pops always liked a good gathering.

Pops had known the local bookies of El Sereno, so with the recent rise in the popularity of Poker with the variation of Texas Hold ‘Em in particular, it just seemed like a match made in heaven.  This is assuming Pops is in Heaven, “hardy har har”!

Fast forward from the moment of that group epiphany and we are five years deep into the Pops Poker Tournament events and over $5,000 dispersed in a variety of helpful acts to Cathedral athletes, students, and teams.

“The Manuel “Pops” Palacio Texas Hold ‘Em Tournament” has evolved over the years but has maintained at its heart a pulse pounding night of intense gambling action!  But how can this be?

The donation fee is only $50!!!  Well, once you are seated you are doled out, “$1,500.00” in chips!

You suspend belief for a bit and treat it like $1,500.00!

And similar to the Cathedral Alumni Basketball Tournament, you better be ready because we don’t want any heart attacks!  The fun, the laughs, and the action can get that loud!

There is a subtle build up as the evening begins.  Firstly, Mr. Art “DJ Art Turix” Sahagun, from the class of  ’74 sets the mood with a blend of contemporary funk and classic oldies music in the Melvin Henderson-Rubio ‘70 Conference Room.  Players are greeted on the outdoor patio deck by Gilbert Palacio ’62 and his wife of 21 years Lydia Palacio, who assign players their table location and chips coupon and bonus pre-pay chips coupon.  Along with drink and food tickets, the players are now ready to begin their preparation.

Cigars and beers are shared on the patio overlooking the sunset of Downtown L.A. in the distance.

The buffet of fine Italian food continues with the mood build up and setting by attenuating your inner Las Vegas sensibilities.  You eat lightly as you prepare.

After a bit of food, drink, music, and conversation, players are given a series of countdown notices starting with a 30 minute to table call.  Calls are made every 12 minutes until the start time.  Texas Hold ‘Em Poker is played with a clock that times the increase of the small blind and the big blind bet.   West L.A. Poker runs the entire tournament in order to ensure a true poker tournament experience.   As each call is made, the Poker Tournament Director announces time and the tension builds in the room and makes for a busy bathroom!

At the final call, players take their seats.  There are usually 8 to 10 players per table. The dealer gives a rundown of the rules before play begins.  If requested, a card showing the 10 hands of poker for the uninitiated and the generally nervous players will be provided by the dealer.  That is just a taste of the down-home quality this event possesses for all levels of players!  So have no fear in giving it a go – try it, you’ll like it!

As play proceeds and the blinds increase, the players on each table are allowed two to three opportunities to purchase more poker chips (This is a fundraiser!)  Players eventually whittle to the wayside and the tables are combined.  Before long, there is only one table left.

Typically, the entrants from the other tables now surround the final table to witness the poker carnage!  This is the time the banter really starts to wail and some jokes get the room rolling.  Of course, there are others that fall flat! 

Depending on our donation collection, we provide prizes for the final 5 players with the final winner being awarded the grand prize for the evening, the perennial Pops Poker belt buckle and a 3 day, 2 night stay in Las Vegas.

For 2017, we want in addition to an individual champion, we are looking to have a class match and to determine the alumni class with the greatest number of poker sharks!

As stated in the title, the purpose of this article was to give you a bit of the back story to this legally  sanctioned poker tournament (we obtain our permit through the LAPD) and to share with you the beginnings of this event, the true fun frenzy and joy – much unexpected – that has been the experience with this event. 

I implore you all to be a card and to check the Cathedral Alumni website often and keep an ear and eye out for the next Pops Texas Hold ‘Em Poker Tournament.

Cathedral and its campus often seems to act as an electrical generator of warm feelings between family and old friends.  I urge those who have missed this lightening in a bottle to come try a bit of our mix with this poker tournament.  You won’t soon forget it.  Join us!

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President: Hector Roman
1253 Bishops Rd
Los Angeles, CA 90012
(323) 225-2438

May 3rd
To organize the graduates of Cathedral into an Alumni Association and abide by its by-laws. The Alumni Association has been successful in fulfilling our mission at Cathedral High School.