National Poker League's U.K. Open has the nuts

Palace Guards at Buckingham Palace, London
London is the tour's first stop this year.

The National Poker League has a sexy host - British television personality Leilani Dowding - a top tournament director - Roy Houghton, dubbed "the Jack McClelland of Europe" - and a roster of pros - Tony G among them - ready to compete in its upcoming U.K. Open.

The league is just weeks away from filming its inaugural tournament in London starting Aug. 12, and tied up loose ends this week by announcing the appointment of Houghton and Dowding.

In 2006, Houghton was voted by his peers tournament director of the year in Europe, following a career that spans more than four decades. During that time, he is credited with organizing the U.K.'s first official poker tournament in 1988, inventing the double-chance freezeout, and paving the way from the blossoming European circuit.

Dowding's resume on the other hand isn't as heavy on the poker content. But what she lacks in experience with the game, she makes up for in other areas. The model was voted one of FHM's sexiest women in the world and is a former Miss Great Britain.

She's competed in the Miss Universe pageant, modeled for print advertisements, acted for television and appeared as a TV hostess and personality. But she's not just a pretty face: Dowding also holds a degree in economics and competes regularly online. She has also appeared on televised poker tournaments sponsored by

"Her beautiful nature, charming demeanor, and vast knowledge of the game will prove to be a very exciting compliment to the National Poker League's televised series," said NPL spokesman Andy Liakos in a press release.

No doubt she will steal the spotlight from some of the other poker stars set to play in the upcoming U.K. Open. So far players such as Mel Judah, Marcel Luske, David Colclough, Noah Boeken, Perry Friedman and Brian Wilson have made early commitments to compete in the event.

There is still space available for the tournament, which requires pre-registration. To get in on the action, interested players can sign up at the National Poker League Web site.

The league is the first to attempt an intercontinental poker tournament circuit, featuring stops in Europe, Asia and North America. The events will become a series of 26 episodes that are to be broadcast world wide.

Following the U.K. Open Aug. 12-18 are tournaments in Asia in October and the Vegas Open in November.

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