GARDEN CITY — The poker-playing priest is one step closer to winning $1 million.
Father Andrew Trapp, parochial vicar at St. Michael Church, won $100,000 on PokerStars.net Million Dollar Challenge, a new poker-themed game show that debuted on the Fox television network on Oct. 11.
The priest beat professional poker champion Daniel Negreanu with a pair of jacks and eights to win the final prize. While waiting for the cards to be revealed, Father Trapp held a rosary in his hands and bowed his head.
He will now join three other players who won $100,000 for the championship round in December.
Negreanu coached Father Trapp in the show’s first two rounds, when he beat former NBA player John Salley and professional poker player Vanessa “Lady Maverick” Rousso, before facing Negreanu.
Father Trapp, who has played the Texas Hold ‘Em variety of poker for fun for several years, competed against thousands of others in online tournaments and submitted an audition video to land a spot on the show. He traveled to Los Angeles Oct. 3-5 to appear on the first episode.
“I really still can’t believe how things went, and I’m very thankful for everybody’s support, encouragement and prayers,” Father Trapp said in an interview with The Miscellany.
“The thing I’m most happy about is that everybody has been telling me I represented the priesthood and the church in a positive way. The fact I was able to win $100,000 for our church makes it even better,” he said.
Father Trapp said one of his friends told him afterward that he thought “God was shuffling the deck.”
All of his winnings will go toward building a new church at St. Michael, which has grown dramatically in recent years.
Father Trapp also wanted to show viewers a fun side of his life as a priest.
He said the money is guaranteed and the show will write a check directly to St. Michael Church.
He watched the program on Oct. 4 in the parish gym with his parents, Don and Beth Trapp of Aiken, and about 300 other friends and supporters.
“He had already told us the results, but I was still nervous,” Mrs. Trapp said. “Watching it was unbelievable. I thought he did a great job. He really wants this to be a form of evangelization for the priesthood, because that’s what he’s really about.”
John and Lisette Velasquez, two of the priest’s friends from Bluffton, went to Los Angeles with him for support.
“It was very nerve-wracking to watch the matches, but we were really, really excited when he won,” Mrs. Velasquez said in a phone interview with The Miscellany. “I think he played very well. There were some very risky plays, and he handled everything. I’ve had a feeling since the beginning that he might go all the way to the finals.”
Eileen Sheehy, parish accountant and a member of the building campaign committee, said members are thrilled with Father Trapp’s success.
“He has put us a lot closer to our campaign goal,” she said, which is $6.5 million. Sheehy said they have raised $3.5 million in actual funds and pledges. The campaign ends in March.