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Online Poker News Archives - November 21, 2005

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November 21, 2005

Poker Parties - Part 1 (see Poker Parties - Part 2)

It's estimated that 50 million americans play poker. So if there's not a game in your basement tonight, odds are there's one somewhere down the block. And because of the current poker boom, there's often a teenager or 2, or 10, at the table.

In a basement on Indy's east side, 7 friends play nickle-ante poker. "He has to blind, put 5 cents in no matter what."

On a computer in an apartment in Castleton, another young Hoosier passes time between big dollar live games. "My mom actually cried when I told her I was a professional poker player."

Clearly there's a wide range of poker hopes and dreams.

At the $5 game in Tyler and Micheal Key's basement, $5 is the most one can lose. "Hey, hey! Oh my God you definitely just cheated! No, I didn't mean to."

Casual rules and modest buy-in fall stray from the inspiration for the poker craze: The high-dollar shows all over cable TV. "It'd be fun to go out there and spend $10,000 just so you can get in a tournament just to say you were in a tournament, but $10,000 doesn't come around much."

Interesting that he'd pick that number. "Yeah, it's just my mess around money." Gabe Walls lives just a few minutes drive up the interstate, but a whole world away in terms of gambling. "It's usually a lot bigger, I mean this is only about 10 grand," Walls said. "Only about 10 grand?" "Yeah, I mean you gotta carry it around, you know? You never know when your're gonna find someone to play with," Walls responded.

The 21-year-old is the state's newest poker celebrity. "My parents tried to get me to live a normal life and it just didn't work," he said. Walls says he started playing games for money at 14. For most of those years, it was a fantasy game called "magic". He's flipped those skills into a new career, playing in the kind of poker contests that air almost constantly on cable. In this year's World Series of Poker, Walls won $91,000. He expects countless kids to try to follow his lead. "The game's blowing up and everyone's just along for the ride now," he says.

While some players claim they regularly rake in windfalls, critics worry about the fallout. So many kids are gambling, they say some will lose control. "What you've got is teenagers and young adults engaged in the kind of gambling they have access to," says Indiana gambling counselor George Brenner. "The earlier the onset, the more prevalance in later life," says California gambling regulator Bruce Roberts, "So for kids starting at 11, 12, 13, it becomes a very serious problem."

Against the odds, those critics have Gabe Walls as an ally. He's seen many people fall to the pull of gambling. "And um, it's rough," Walls says, "I have some really smart friends who have been through that and it's rough for them."

Where Walls and the critics differ is in whether gambling can be good for some. Walls says yes, and is intent on proving his point. "I see myself, right now I'm just trying to get to $2 or 3 million. Then I see myself investing in real estate and getting into the bigger games."

Much to the relief of his parents, Tyler Key has no such plan. "I think that's a dream for everybody cause you're not really working, you're just making money doing something you like," Key says, "But I think everyone knows it's pretty much just fantasy if you wanna do that."

Sunday at 10:00 on WNDY UPN 23, we hear from poker parents. They understand the criticism, but believe there's a lot to be said for the game. We also see who's making money off the craze, and we offer some places to turn for help if anyone you know is in danger of letting a poker pastime become an addiction.

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