(Click Here for the Latest Online Poker News Stories)
Copyright 2005 USA TODAY
December 23, 2005
It's always poker night on campus
Author: Wendy Koch, USA TODAY
Every Sunday at 6 p.m., coast to coast, more than a thousand college
students go online to compete for scholarship money in the qualifying
rounds of a national poker tournament.
Others play the hot poker game Texas
Hold'em in all-night tournaments, at campus fundraisers, in
dorm rooms with friends, or increasingly, on the Internet.
Poker, once a pastime for cowboys in Wild West saloons but now
a cash cow for cable TV, is at the forefront of a gambling craze
that has swept colleges nationwide.
"The popularity of poker is absolutely phenomenal,"
says Elizabeth George, chief executive of the North American Training
Institute, which specializes in dealing with problems of youth
gambling. "It is head and shoulders over other types of college
"The word, conservatively, is 'epidemic,' " says Edward
Looney, executive director of the Council on Compulsive Gambling
of New Jersey. He attributes poker's surge to its glamorization
on TV shows such as Bravo's Celebrity Poker Showdown and to the
accessibility of the Internet and credit cards.
Half of college men say they have gambled on cards at least once
a month this year, up from 45% in 2004, according to a study released
in September by the University of Pennsylvania's Annenberg Public
Policy Center. About 15% of them played at least once a week in
2005, up from 2% in 2002. Only 1.6% of college women said they
played weekly this year.
Card players are more likely than other gamblers to go online,
the report says. It cites a fivefold increase in weekly Internet
betting since 2002.
Experts say poker's popularity is the result of a trend toward
greater acceptance of gambling in the USA — from horse racing
in the 1930s to bingo, lotteries, riverboats, Indian casinos and
the Internet. Toy stores now sell poker sets, and public colleges
offer courses and even majors on gambling and casinos.
"Gambling has become a more mainstream activity," says
Dan Romer, director of the Annenberg survey. He calls it a "worrisome"
trend. "Younger people are more prone to addiction than older
people. Some kids who play will get hooked."
The survey found that 54.5% of young people who gambled weekly
reported at least one problem, including overspending or social
withdrawal. It says card players reported more problems than other
gamblers. Of those who gambled at least once a month, 10% said
they owe people money as a result.
This month in Allentown, Pa., Lehigh University student Greg
Hogan robbed a bank to pay off a $5,000 debt incurred through
online poker, according to his attorney, John Waldron.
Hogan, 19, appears an unlikely bandit. President of his sophomore
class and son of a Baptist minister, he also played second-chair
cello in the university orchestra and worked in the chaplain's
But Waldron says Hogan got addicted to poker in college and started
borrowing money. "It just got him in the hole. It overwhelmed
him," Waldron says. "He made a decision that just wasn't
"We're seeing a lot of good kids with gambling problems,"
Looney says. He estimates that 5% of gamblers develop serious
Those seeking help are "anxious, depressed — they
feel alone, isolated," says Dennis Heitzmann, a psychologist
who has been director of counseling services at Pennsylvania State
University for 20 years.
Many counseling centers are ill-equipped to deal with gambling
addiction, says Clayton Neighbors, a psychiatry professor at the
University of Washington. He says the problem is generally less
understood than alcohol or drug abuse. He says college students,
away from home for the first time, are vulnerable. "They
are in that period where they're willing to experiment with almost
anything," he says.
"We're not communicating adequately the risks," says
Keith Whyte, executive director of the National Council on Problem
Gambling. "Government, which typically deals with these issues,
has a conflict of interest," he says, because states profit
from gambling ventures such as casinos and lotteries.
Those who've been addicted know the rush, and the risks.
"It was a euphoric feeling. It was a need, a drug,"
says Paul Delvacchio, 40, a married father of two in Marietta,
Calif., who started gambling at age 16. He was accused in March
of embezzling $500,000 from his company to cover gambling debts,
mostly from Internet sports bets. He could face at least four
years in prison.
College players say they play to socialize and, if they're lucky,
to win a few bucks.
Jeremy Olisar, an honors student at Carnegie Mellon University
in Pittsburgh who won a free semester of tuition in October from
a tournament sponsored by Absolute Poker, says he plays a few
hours a week.
"My passion is definitely music," says Olisar, who
has a double major of clarinet and music performance. He bets
money sometimes but says poker is not addictive for him. He likes
the logic and mental challenge of the game.
"I like the competition involved," says Chad Flood,
21, a junior at the University of Minnesota. In May, he defeated
about 25,000 competitors to win $41,000 in scholarship money in
the second annual College Poker Championship.
The tournament's host, Lou Krieger, expects this year's final
round in June to draw 40,000 students, who qualify by playing
well in the weekly Sunday games. There is no cost to enter.
Flood played chess in grade school, but by junior high he considered
it a bit "nerdy." As a kid, he played poker, and in
high school he learned Texas Hold'em. He plays with buddies on
campus, but if he's serious, he goes online. "You don't want
to take your friends' money."
Before the tournament win, he says, he won nearly $4,000 in bets.
He sees poker as a hobby, but he watches what he spends. "I
recommend keeping track," says the economics major. "You
need to know how to manage your money."
from the World Wide Web on December 23, 2005:
(Click Here for the Latest Online Poker News Stories)