Our generation has grown up during a major technological era and has therefore seen its share of new forms of entertainment, from flat-screen TVs to DVDs, video games and the Internet.

With so many technological advances in recent years, it may come as a surprise to some that one of the most popular forms of entertainment for college students comes in a game that is centuries old: poker. It seems like poker is one of those universal activities that is overplayed by the majority of college students, freshmen in particular. While its lure may be confusing to some, its addicting nature has become apparent to me in the last few months.

Before I came to college, I rarely played poker. It was one of those things that I knew was fun but was never extremely drawn to. But it’s amazing how you get such a rush the first time you win a hand. I’m competitive by nature, and anyone like me can relate to that satisfying feeling of beating everyone around you, even if it’s just with one hand. After my first game at UR, I was addicted. Before I knew it, I was playing probably an average of three poker games a week during fall semester.

Poker’s popularity is not limited to Rochester, of course. I looked on Facebook and found over 500 poker groups from various schools, nine of which were started at UR. While most college students-myself included-play poker just for fun, there is a growing number of students who play poker like it’s their job and rely on their winnings to pay for major expenses, including textbooks and even tuition.

For those with the talent and passion, poker can be played professionally. The World Series of Poker is an event held every year into which thousands of hopefuls enter. The price to enter the tournament is $10 thousand, but those who do well can win millions-the record win was $12 million in 2006.

That’s not to say, however, that all poker games have to be high-stakes. For amateur players like me, the free games are just as exciting. Not only is poker a good way to pass the time or relax after studying, but I’ve also found it to be a great way for people to bond. The beginning of freshman year is full of new faces, icebreakers and hall activities focused on getting everyone to bond with one another. As the first weeks passed, my hall became a lot closer than many other freshman halls at UR, and I credit that partially to how much we play poker.

Plus, you learn a lot about people by the way they play-do they become quiet and reserved when they play or jittery and excited? When they lose a big hand, do they yell out in rage or get excited for their big comeback?

As last semester progressed, more and more people on my hall, even the ones who had never played before, began to play. So are you one of those people, like them, who is waiting to be drawn in to the poker craze? If so, step up and don’t be afraid to play a hand-you might just win.

Lombardo is a member of the class of 2010.

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