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As the cards fly at Brad Garrett’s poker event, Jason Alexander hints at Las Vegas return

Brad Garrett's Poker Tournament at Tropicana

Glenn Pinkerton/Las Vegas News Bureau

Ray Romano, Jose Canseco and Brad Garrett attend Garrett’s Maximum Hope Foundation Poker Tournament at the Tropicana on Sept. 17, 2011.

Brad Garrett's Poker Tournament at Tropicana

Brad Garrett's Maximum Hope Foundation Poker Tournament included Annie Duke, Jason Alexander, Ray Romano, Larry and Camille Ruvo, Cheryl Hines and Jose Canseco at the Tropicana on Sept. 17, 2011. Launch slideshow »
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Brad Garrett, right, and Jason Alexander show the long and short of it.

Brad Garrett does the funny

Brad Garrett is laughing all the way to … somewhere. Maybe it’s not the bank, given that he continues to turn a consistent, healthy payday at his comedy club at Tropicana.

His rote joke that his “very expensive hobby is like owning an enormous boat that seats 300” reveals that this is an exercise in passion, not profit, for the comic actor most famous for playing Ray Romano’s brother on “Everybody Loves Raymond.” Garrett is performing at his club tonight through Tuesday. (The comic/club operator talks of the club's viability in the accompanying YouTube clip I shot of him Saturday. The seemingly random reference to "Izzy" at the end is to Garrett's girlfriend, IsaBeall Quella, which prompts his aghast response.)

Saturday afternoon, he was pied piper of poker, hosting his celebrity charity tournament for his Maximum Hope Foundation. As expected, Romano, Jason Alexander, Cheryl Hines (best-known as a cast member on “Curb Your Enthusiasm”) and poker pros Annie Duke and Jamie Gold turned up, as did former major league slugger, author and reality TV show fixture Jose Canseco.

The idea was to play cards and raise money for a worthy cause, as Maximum Hope provides assistance to families of chronically ill children. As the game played into the night, Las Vegas real estate magnate George Chami won the competition by topping Gold at the final table and swiftly donated his $5,000 back to the charity. Canseco took third (after stealing second, ba-dum-bum), and, in all, the night raised a tournament record $152,233.

There was a morsel of news coming out of the event, though, and it came from Alexander. It wasn’t his altered hairline either, as Alexander has many more follicle seedlings atop his scalp than he did a year ago when he performed his “Donny Clay” satire-motivational speaking show at Planet Hollywood.

Alexander, who even today still hears calls of “Hey, George!” for his role as George Costanza on “Seinfeld,” said he is working on a new show to bring to Las Vegas and has been talking to hotel-casinos in the city about staging the showcase.

It’s not a one-man operation, as was the case with his ambitious “Clay” production, which was a tough sell because many fans were confused as to what the show was, exactly. Some were unsure of whether Alexander’s Donny Clay, a reconstituted and satirical adaptation of Tony Robbins, was true motivational experience? Satire is not an easy sell when you’re attempting to reach fans in 10 words or less in print ads or taxicab tops.

“What is it?” Alexander said just before sitting for his turn in the tournament. “That was the biggest problem. It was a tough show to explain to people. For a show like that, you have to sit down for a year in one place and let it grow. We weren’t able to do that.”

Alexander says he has been working with his longtime friend Sam Harris, who vaulted to stardom in the mid-’80s as the grand champion of “Star Search” and has forged an impressive career on Broadway since, on a mostly musical production he wants to stage on The Strip.

“It’s more music than comedy,” Alexander said. “It’s based on Sam’s personal journey, through the music of the 1980s. I can’t say much more about it, but there is a lot of interest here.”

At that point, Alexander’s name was called to the table. It was Garrett, bellowing, “I have put a $100 bounty up for anyone who takes out Ray Romano, Jason Alexander or Cheryl Hines.” With that, Alexander found his seat.

As Clay would say, be the cards. Be the cards.

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