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Strip Scribbles: $750,000 top prize at stake in poker championship

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Annie Duke at Extra Lounge in Planet Hollywood on July 1, 2010.
Photo: Tom Donoghue/www.donoghuephotography.com

Robin Leach's Vegas DeLuxe

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2011 Taste of the NFL: It's a Wrap

Randy Couture and Franky Perez.

Randy Couture and Franky Perez.

Estelle Harris and LaRaf at the Las Vegas Hilton.

Estelle Harris and LaRaf at the Las Vegas Hilton.

Apolo Ohno and Jabbawockeez at the Monte Carlo on Feb. 7, 2011.

Apolo Ohno and Jabbawockeez at the Monte Carlo on Feb. 7, 2011.

Apolo Ohno and Jabbawockeez at the Monte Carlo on Feb. 7, 2011.

Apolo Ohno and Jabbawockeez at the Monte Carlo on Feb. 7, 2011.

Troy Tulowitski, Evan Longoria, Barry Dakake and Pete Rose at N9NE Steakhouse at the Palms.

Troy Tulowitski, Evan Longoria, Barry Dakake and Pete Rose at N9NE Steakhouse at the Palms.

UFC President Dana White.

UFC President Dana White.

More than 60 of the world’s elite poker players will go all-in in the seventh annual NBC national heads-up poker championship at Caesars Palace from March 3-6. The winning players will share a total of $1.8 million, with the grand prize at its largest: $750,000. Las Vegas’ Annie Duke returns to defend her championship in the GoDaddy.com-sponsored event.

The poker pros will include Vanessa Rousso, who was the first woman to reach the finals two years ago, Doyle Brunson, Phil Ivey, Chris Ferguson, Andy Bloch, Daniel Negreanu and Huck Seed.

I’ve learned that the biggest attractions -- and possibly the biggest threats -- will be Jonathan Duhamel and Erik Seidel, who were champion and runner-up, respectively, in the WSOP Main Event last November. And 2008 WSOP champion Peter Eastgate is ending his self-imposed retirement to compete.

Model beauty Leeann Tweeden is returning again as host and sideline reporter. NBC Sports President Jon Miller said: “This is some of the most exciting poker in the world. You never know what match-ups you will get, and we’re always amazed at the outcome of who beats who.”

*Former Las Vegas Academy student Derek Hough is not returning for this season of Dancing With the Stars, and now we know why. He’s making his big screen debut shooting a dance movie, and don’t be surprised if he turns up here for Strip appearances before the March 10 start of DWTS.

*Teri Hatcher, Ray Romano, Brad Garrett, Danny DeVito, Steve Schirripa, Holly Madison, Josh Strickland, Laura Croft and Angel Porrino are among the first celebrities joining star Chefs Wolfgang Puck, Jose Andres, Michael Mina, Francois Payard and David Robins for the red carpet to kick off the 15th Annual Keep Memory Alive benefit gala at the Bellagio on Feb. 26. It’s the most glittering charity event of the year to benefit Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health. Human Nature and the Bellagio’s newly discovered talent Erik Gomez will entertain at the after-party. Other surprises include a star with a video invitation during dinner, and the ultimate captain of industry has promised to take part in a unique auction.

*While I was in Dallas helping with the Taste of the NFL charity, which raised more than $1 million for the food banks of the 32 NFL cities, I had the privilege of pouring the magnum of Moet Chandon over the 10-ooft tall tower of champagne glasses! It was part of the welcome ceremony with 2011 Miss America Teresa Scanlan, who celebrated her 18th birthday. We used a saber to lop off the cork of the magnum. The Dallas newspapers described my surgical swipe as thrust and tarries par excellence!

Star surveillance

MMA legend Randy Couture enjoyed the music of Franky Perez at The Lounge at the Palms. Seinfeld actress Estelle Harris watched Triumph at the Las Vegas Hilton and talked with magician stars Rafael Palacios and Larry Fischer, aka LaRaf, for more than an hour backstage.

Eight-time Olympic medalist Apolo Ohno watched the Jabbawockeez at Monte Carlo and hung out with the dance troupe afterward at Brand steakhouse and lounge. Actor and comedian Tim Allen, who just started a yearlong run at The Venetian, dined at Smashburger near UNLV.

Jacob Ellsbury of the Boston Red Sox dined with six pals at Nove Italiano at the Palms. Troy Tulowitzki (Colorado Rockies), Evan Longoria (Tampa Bay Rays), Matthew Holliday (St. Louis Cardinals) and Pete Rose dined at N9NE Steakhouse at the Palms. Also at N9NE: UFC President Dana White, Dustin Keller (New York Jets) and Hall of Famer Fred Biletnikoff, who hung out with Executive Chef Barry S. Dakake in the kitchen. At Ghostbar: Donovan McNabb (Washington Redskins) and Matthew. At Moon, Rev Theory partied alongside Jensen Louis (Cleveland Indians).

Donovan also turned up at Sammy Hagar’s Cabo Wabo Cantina at Planet Hollywood’s Miracle Mile. Nate Clements (San Francisco 49ers) dined at Sushi Samba in the Palazzo and ran into Bernard Pollard and Stanford Keglar of the Houston Texans and Dustin.

At Marquee at The Cosmopolitan: Buffalo Bills linebacker Shawne Merriman, who just moved to Las Vegas for the off season, with his brother and friends, plus Vernon Davis (San Francisco 49ers), Darrelle Revis (New York Jets), Julius Peppers (Chicago Bears) and Charles Johnson (Carolina Panthers).

Tonight’s tips

Comedian Mark Curry invites you to hang with TV’s Mr. Cooper for five nights of mirth at the Hilton. The old Rok Box party at Tabu at MGM Mirage returns in Saville Rowe at LAX at the Luxor. 12th Planet and HavocNdeeD turn up the volume of electro night at Ghostbar in the Palms. Franky Perez is at Red Rock Resort.

Tomorrow’s teases

We have a preview of the Rugby Seven teams from as far afield as Australia, Fiji, Kenya , Uruguay and Argentina preparing for 44 matches played here over two days, and it begins with the Parade of Nations representing the 16 participating countries. Plus, the new South Beach Happy Hour starts at the just-opened Cafe Nikki in advance of this spring’s opening of the much-awaited Nikki Beach at the Tropicana.

Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.

Follow Robin Leach on Twitter at Twitter.com/Robin_Leach.

Follow Vegas DeLuxe on Twitter at Twitter.com/vegasdeluxe.

Follow VDLX Editor Don Chareunsy on Twitter at Twitter.com/VDLXEditorDon.

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