People, it’s everywhere. Gone are the days of pogs and backyard paintball wars. Now, everyone who’s anyone is playing poker – Texas Hold’Em style. As prevalent as all-nighters before finals, a poker game can be found virtually every night at almost any given social lounge on campus. Last Monday, I decided to learn why everyone was playing, and with a tin of my grandma’s cookies, I hit the fourth floor social lounge of Susan B. Anthony Residence Halls in search of the answer.”You win money,” freshman Andreas Gennis divulged, adding that money really isn’t the biggest reason that most people play. “Even though you win, it changes hands so much. There’s really not much change.” Although one player from the fourth floor admitted that he had won about $300 to $400 since Freshman Orientation – including online poker – most students agreed that money is not the biggest factor. “It’s such minute amounts of money, it doesn’t really matter,” freshman Jason Robin said, adding, “It’s my procrastinator. It keeps me from doing my work.” Freshmen David Fersh agreed. “Definitely procrastination,” he said. Other students compared it to different activities. “It’s cheaper than a movie, and there’s a chance to get my money back,” a freshman said as fellow player Nathan Farwell showed off his amazing poker skills with a quick shuffle of the chips. Gennis added further insight into the obsession.”It’s a skill to read people,” he explained. Robin agreed and expanded on the idea of poker as a mental sport. “You get to outwit and outplay other people,” he said. Many campus groups have recognized the popularity of poker and in response, are beginning to convert the popular social lounge games into larger events. On Sunday, the residential advisers of Gilbert Hall held their first building-wide Texas Hold’Em Tournament. “We played two and a half hours straight, no break,” junior Matt DellaPorta said after crediting Ben Lin with the great idea. Over 50 people signed up to participate, including 50 percent of DellaPorta’s 16-man hall. “It was very popular,” freshman Greg Cohn said. “Everyone really seemed to enjoy it a lot.” Cohn informed me that in addition to playing in actual games on campus, many students also play online. I decided to investigate this angle and found poker everywhere on the web. A quick Google search brought up 21.7 million results in 0.34 seconds, and I put down my homework to read a little bit about the history of the game’s popularity.As it turns out, the beginning of the so-called “poker craze” can be traced to ESPN’s broadcast of the World Series of Poker two summers ago. It was the tremendous success of the seven-part series in 2003 that encouraged the network to run a comprehensive 22-part series this past summer, and the popularity of poker has really soared since then. ESPN2 has recently aired the Ladies Limit Hold’Em World Championship, while other networks, such as the Travel Channel and Bravo, have also cashed in on the craze. In addition, schools have jumped on the poker bandwagon to raise money for their cause. The St. Edward’s School of Twin Falls, Idaho, raised over $5,000 in a recent tournament and other groups and charities are planning to follow suit. So why do so many people play Texas Hold’Em, even off college campuses? Echoing the results of my online research, the poker players in Sue B. provided the most obvious answer.”It is fun,” freshman Jonathan Joseph said. Robin concurred. “Nothing’s more fun than losing money to my friends.” Anderson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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