More than 500 people playing in Behchoko, N.W.T., $100K handgames tournament

More than 500 people playing in Behchoko, N.W.T., $100K handgames tournament

The community of Behchoko, N.W.T., is hosting a Dene handgames tournament this weekend that's being billed as the biggest in the territory.

Organizers say that up to 60 teams from across the Northwest Territories, Yukon and northern Alberta will compete in the 12th annual Ediwa Weyallon handgames tournament. A total of $100,000 in prize money is on the line. 

"We are trying to get people together from different communities, and also to make friends," said Joe Beaverho, who is with a committee organizing the event.

"It's also for young people to see that handgames is about sportsmanship."

Handgames are traditionally played by men only. Teams kneel facing one another, bobbing and moving to the beat of drums as they use hand signals to try to guess in what hand players from the other side are hiding a token.

Teams are paying $2,000 each to enter the Behchoko tournament.

The winning team will take home $30,000, with the remaining prize money distributed among next seven finishers.

Beaverho says handgames are exciting not only for the players, but the spectators as well.

"Once you hear the sound of the drum, even though you don't play, you feel the beat of the drum, it gets you excited, and you just want to be part of the game," he said.

The community is also putting on a $18,000 bingo and a Texas hold'em tournament.

Beaverho says all the events are alcohol and drug free.

The handgames begin Friday. The finals will be held Sunday evening.