Poker spreads around campus

The card game’s growth might be in part because of its prevalence on TV.

by Brady Averill

University senior Shaun Blum is a poker fanatic. He plays poker with friends, online and at a card club at Canterbury Park in Shakopee, Minn.

“I play a lot. Probably more than I should,” he said.

Blum is one of thousands – perhaps millions – of people who cannot get enough of the game. It is on television, the Internet and in nearby casinos, and plenty of players are going head-to-head in homes on and off campus.

Poker’s growth might be in part because of its prevalence on television. More than three cable networks cover poker tournaments.

The 24-hour sports network ESPN broadcasts the World

Series of Poker, in which amateurs sometime take home all of the dough. You can also watch celebrities win or lose big money for charities on “Celebrity Showdown” on the Bravo network.

The game’s popularity is growing and bringing in new players all the time, but Blum said he grew up around poker. He said that he began taking the game semiseriously approximately a year and a half ago when his friends began playing.

The group plays together a few times a week, with games sometimes lasting into the wee morning hours. They play tournament style with buy-ins as low as $5 and as high as $15, he said.

“It’s mostly just for fun,” he said. “But there’s still a competitive edge there. People get angry when they lose, but we all get over it.”

For a while, Blum said he played poker online all the time. But it interfered with school, he said. He has cut back to a few times each week for a few hours.

“You can make the most money on the Internet because there are really bad players on there,” he said.

If he feels competitive, he said, he goes to Canterbury Park, where players are generally older and better. He said he goes there every couple weeks.

In any given night, the most Blum has won is $400; the most he has lost is $150, he said.

“I think most of the fun comes from the money. There’s excitement in winning or losing financially,” he said.

When he is playing online, Blum said, once he is up $150, he sets aside $75 to keep. He knows when to stop playing, he said.

“If I ever lose all the money I had in winnings, I’d just quit because that would be really depressing,” he said.

Poor odds against them

Some people, cannot determine when to stop playing until it is too late.

Medical School professor and gambling addictions researcher Dr. Suck Won Kim said young people such as college students can get more easily addicted to gambling because some struggle to control their impulses.

“Once they get a taste of gambling, it’s going to be harder for them to resist,” he said.

Kim said more people have been playing games of chance during the last few years.

“I know gambling is just going out of control in the college campus,” Kim said.

Blum said he thinks playing poker excessively can be a problem if students think they will make a lot of money once they start playing.

It can be an addiction, he said, but students need to keep themselves in check.

Hold’em: residence hall-style

After seeing plenty of students shuffling cards and betting chips, Bryan Brignac, a community adviser, has organized a charity poker tournament for Dec. 4 in Pioneer Hall.

Limited only to superblock residents, Brignac said, he expects 350 players to sign up. Players will be asked to make a suggested donation of $10.

Brignac, a public relations junior, said he is capitalizing on poker’s growth.

Residence halls ban gambling of any sort, but officials’ hands are tied if they do not see money being exchanged, he said.

“(Residents) play anyway. They just keep money off the table,” he said.

The poker tournament is allowed in the residence halls because all proceeds will be donated to the Ronald McDonald House.

Area businesses have donated $900 in prizes, Brignac said.

“I think they want a piece of the action as well,” he said.

Brignac said he equates the popularity of poker to a fad. He said nearly all male residents in Centennial Hall either play poker or have friends who play.

“I think it’s something that will stick around with our generation for at least a while,” he said.

As for the future of this possible fad, who knows how the cards will be dealt?