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ALEX COHEN, host:

This Sunday night is the first night of Hanukkah, which means it's dreidel time. For the uninitiated, a dreidel is a four-sided top which you spin in a gambling game. The prize is usually coin-shaped chocolate called gelt, unless, of course, you happen to be in Manhattan, where the stakes are much higher. The Big Apple is home to Major League Dreidel, or MLD. Eric Pavony is the MLD's knishioner(ph), and he joins us now from New York, and Eric, you're having this big event Sunday night. You take this game to a much higher level. How to you play dreidel?

Mr. ERIC PAVONY (Knishioner, Major League Dreidel): The dreidel is no longer a game of chance or a game of luck. MLD is based totally on the skill of the spinner.

COHEN: You've got about 64 entrants, I believe, coming on Sunday. They have some spectacular names. I particularly like Ooh-la Latke(ph), Jimmy Gimmel(ph), Spinona Rider(ph). Who's going to be competing? Who are the people behind these names?

Mr. PAVONY: Well, last year, we have crowned the first-ever MLD champion. Her name was Pam Skee(ph), and she destroyed a field of 32 of New York City's finest spinners with the top TOS, time of spin, with 17.88. So, she's got to be the clear favorite coming into the 2008 MLD tournament. Virtual Dreidel was the runner up last year and gave Pam a run for her money, or for her gelt, rather.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. PAVONY: And he is coming back. So, I'm sure he is looking to take down Pam Skee in the championships, which he didn't do last year.

COHEN: 17.8 seconds is pretty impressive. How do you achieve that length of spin? Is it stance, something to do with the wrist? How do you do it?

Mr. PAVONY: You know, achieving a long TOS, time of spin, comes from a lot of different places. I think it starts in the heart and emanates through the arm and ultimately through the fingertips onto what we call the spinagogue - that is, the spinning arena - for every MLD participant. Pam Skee seemed to have a very soft, gentle approach to her spin, which was surprising because she generated the longest time of spins hands down. No one else even broke 17 seconds. Some other spinners really get up there and wind their arm and kind of throw their entire body into it. But MLD has some curveballs that it throws to the spinners. You can't just get up there and wing the dreidel as hard as you can onto the spinagogue. We have designed what we call spin zones, which is a designated area in which spinners have to spin the dreidel. And these spin zones are designed to make sure that the dreidel spinners, while they're looking to spin the dreidel with a lot of velocity, of course, they also have to do it with a little bit of control so not to hit the walls of the spin zone, which would lead to a shorter time of spin.

COHEN: And Eric, what does the winner get for getting the longest spin of the evening?

Mr. PAVONY: We have a custom crystal dreidel trophy, and we have a year-long supply of MLD gelt.

(Soundbite of laughter)

COHEN: Eric Pavony is the knishioner of Major League Dreidel. Thank you, Eric.

Mr. PAVONY: Thank you so much.

(Soundbite of song "Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel")

Unidentified Man: (Singing) Dreidel, dreidel, dreidel, I made it out of clay. When I'm good and ready, dreidel I will play. Dreidel, dreidel, dreidel, I made it out of clay. When I'm good and ready...

COHEN: Don't spin away. NPR's Day to Day continues.

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