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Last Updated: Thursday, 29 September 2005, 17:03 GMT 18:03 UK
Poker-playing UK chef $1m richer
Lee Biddulph
Lee Biddulph won a showdown with a software engineer from Arizona
A chef flew in to Manchester Airport almost $1m (567,419) richer after beating about 4,000 hopefuls in an amateur poker tournament.

Lee Biddulph, of Thornton Cleveleys, near Blackpool, beat eight US opponents in the final in Costa Rica, despite having never won more than 28 before.

"I was feeling very nervous and my hands were shaking," he said.

Mr Biddulph, 28, who has been playing Texas Hold-Em poker since 2002, was one of 39,000 to enter an online contest.

Players were whittled down during heats until just nine remained who were eligible for a seat at the $1m final, held in Costa Rica.

I thought I kept my emotions in check and I just had to keep control
Lee Biddulph

Mr Biddulph faced off against eight other men, all from the US, before a showdown with Mike Darweesh, a software engineer from Arizona.

Both players emerged with a flush - five cards of the same suit - on their final hand, but Mr Biddulph took the pot with a higher card among his five.

"I never like to count my chickens until they are hatched, but I knew I always had a chance - it just depends on the cards," he said.

"I got some good cards and played at the right times."

He said he had great support from his girlfriend, Debbie.

New motorbike

"It all worked out in the end," he added.

"I thought I kept my emotions in check and I just had to keep control.

"It was a fantastic feeling and I had to make sure it was actually real and not just a dream."

The cook, who works in the kitchen of a psychiatric hospital, said he would be back at work on Monday though he did not rule out turning professional in the future.

Mr Biddulph said he would be taking advice on what to do with his new-found wealth, but added he planned to buy a house and treat his girlfriend to a new motorbike.

Bruce Stubbs, marketing director of paradisepoker.com, said: "Lee played brilliantly, he started the final table with less chips - $1.58m to Mike's $2.72m - and came out a winner."

The chef from Blackpool talks about his poker win

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