A FISH shop owner battered the opposition to scoop all the chips in the regional heat of a national poker tournament.

Samantha Grayson, 36, co-owner of Basildon Court Fish Bar, in Thornaby, Stockton, saw off 70 opponents to win a place in the final of the Betfred Women's Poker Tournament.

Ms Grayson, who lives in Middlesbrough, picked up a cheque for £2,630 and now has a chance to win a sponsorship package worth £20,000 at the grand final in Birmingham, in December.

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She said: "I've been playing poker for about five years. I went to a casino with my partner, David Murray, and I was hooked.

"I play online sometimes, but I play mainly in live tournaments at casinos in Middlesbrough and Newcastle about three times a week.

"I've won quite a few local tournaments, and I got down to the last two tables at a competition in Blackpool, but this is my biggest win so far. I was just amazed when I won it."

Fred Done, founder of the independent bookmaking and online gaming company, said the tournament had attracted professional and amateur players of all ages and occupations.

He said: "So far, the tour has attracted not only experienced ladies from the UK poker circuit, but also a new generation of female poker players.

"This is a unique event - the first of its kind in the UK - and it's proving to be a roaring success.

"I want to find the best female poker player in the UK, and will back her with my own money next year to give her a push with her career."

Ms Grayson added: "It's really good that Betfred are taking women's poker seriously.

"The first prize will pay the winner into next year's big tournaments - like Barcelona and the Irish Open - and it would be a great experience.

"I'm really looking forward to the final - I can't wait.

"David is over the moon with it all, and he's supporting me all the way."