December 12, 2009— -- For centuries, the Dreidel game has been a Hanukkah tradition. The simple gambling game remains a fixture at Hanukkah parties, but today it's often more decoration than entertainment – a party favor and not a party favorite.
Fed up with Dreidel's dryness, some Jewish entrepreneurs are putting a new spin on the tradition for modern times.
One of the leaders of this Dreidel renaissance is Jennie Rivlin Roberts, 38, an industrial psychologist turned entrepreneur from Atlanta, Ga.
"Regular Dreidel is a pretty boring game, says Roberts. "And it's got to the point where not only do Jewish people know that Dreidel is a boring game, but everyone knows Dreidel is a boring game."
Roberts is the inventor of No Limit Texas Dreidel, a game that combines regular Dreidel with no limit Texas Hold'em poker.
In the Hold'em version of Dreidel, players are given two Dreidel "spins" in their shaker, which only they can see. The Hebrew letters on those Dreidels are combined with three "community spins" to form the best poker hand. Players bet in rounds using poker betting rules. The game is usually played with chocolate coins, or gelt, as is the traditional wager for the Dreidel game.
In traditional Dreidel, players simply make a wager and spin the Dreidel. Gelt is then distributed based on what Hebrew letter the Dreidel lands on.
Eric Pavony, 30, of Brooklyn, N.Y., decided to ditch the gambling aspect of Dreidel for a no spins barred face-off of pure spinning power. In his revamped Dreidel game called Major League Dreidel, spinners compete one-on-one for longest spin.
"What we did was make Dreidel a little more modern and little more exciting, a little bit more dynamic for spinners of all ages," says Pavony.
Pavony has even developed a unique portable Dreidel stadium he calls the "Spinagogue."
"This Dreidel competition we are hosting is a sport. Dreidel is an older sport than golf, tennis, football and basketball. It's been around since the 2nd century," says Pavony.
"So just like another sport, Dreidel needs an arena. A place where all the spinning, winning, gelt and glory can happen."
On Dec. 12, Pavony will host the third annual Major League Dreidel Tournament. He's expecting over 120 spinners, from as far away as Hawaii, at the spin-off in Brooklyn, N.Y.
In 2007, the Major League Dreidel world record for longest spin was recorded by Pamela "Pamskee" Goldman at 17.88 seconds.