Priest takes his poker game to television

AIKEN --- A priest, an NBA star and a poker champion are competing in a game show.


No, it's not the start of a bad joke.

It's the collection of players competing on Fox's PokerStars.Net Million Dollar Challenge .

The Rev. Andrew Trapp, an Aiken native, will play against poker star Daniel Negreanu and former NBA player John Salley on the show, which airs at 3 p.m. today. He is vying for the top prize to donate to the renovation of his church, St. Michael Catholic Church in Garden City.

When he auditioned for the show, he was aiming for the sizable check and a chance to show priests are more than just devout servants of God, he said.

"I'm hoping people will see we have our own hobbies, and we're people, too," he said. "People think all I do is pray, but I like to hang out with friends, watch movies and play basketball."

The 28-year-old, who was ordained in 2007, said he began playing poker with his parents as a child and honed his skills in Texas Hold 'Em while studying in seminary in Ohio. The game made him and his brothers in the cloth well-rounded, he said.

"We'd always study really hard and have a pretty heavy prayer life, but they also wanted us to make sure we had fun together," he said. "The guys and I would get together about once a week to play poker and other games."

The practice paid off.

The Rev. Trapp was one of only 21 contestants chosen out of 10,000 who competed in preliminary online tournaments, he said. Those who won in their tournament were asked to submit a video, he said. Producers chose the most interesting contestants to compete on the show, which was taped in Los Angeles earlier this month. The Rev. Trapp said he knew his story would catch the producers' attention.

He also knew competing on the show might cause some controversy, though the Catholic Church does not deem playing poker, in moderation, immoral, he said.

His family and members at his home parish, St. Mary Help of Christians Catholic Church in Aiken, are excited about his television debut, said his father, Donald Trapp.

"You don't hear about a priest doing this sort of thing," Mr. Trapp said. "I think this will be a positive thing for him to do."

The Rev. Trapp said he prayed before taping the show, and he and his family will pray and gather to watch the show together in Garden City today.

"I definitely prayed a lot about the stories of David and Goliath," he said. "You're playing against some of the best poker players in the world, and here I am just a normal guy who plays with his friends. It will be a great experience whether I win or lose."

Reach Stephanie Toone at (803) 648-1395, ext. 110, or


WHAT: The Rev. Andrew Trapp on PokerStars.Net Million Dollar Challenge

WHEN: 3 p.m. today


Andrew Trapp wanted money for his church.