Online Poker’s Popularity Grows Among College Students

With events such as ESPN’s World Poker Championship dominatingthe television screens of many Americans and grabbing audiences ofnearly 2 million for the season premier according to Nielsonratings, the popularity of the game is increasing. 

With the growth of the game comes a newdimension–online poker. Before, players participated for money,fun, and pride. Now they can play for charities and even collegetuition. 

The College Poker Championship providesparticipants with the opportunity to compete in Texas no-limitpoker for scholarships. Royal Vegas Poker, a 24-hour online pokerroom, sponsors the event, which is hosted by the best sellingauthor of Poker for Dummies, Lou Krieger. Entry into the tournamentis free and all the games are played with tournament chips insteadof real money. 

The 2005 Championship runs through February 25with chances to qualify and win $500 in scholarships being awardedweekly. The games are played every Sunday at 4 p.m. with the top 10percent of finishers from the super satellite games moving on tothe satellite event. The Online Final is held on Feb. 27, 2005.

While the college poker championship does notencourage gambling by students, there may be mixed messages beingreceived by the students. The same software they use to participatein the free college game can be used to place bets in Royal Vegas’poker room. 

According to the National Council on ProblemGambling (NCPG), a Washington, D.C.organization that providesawareness, treatment and encouragement to gamblers and familymembers, nearly 3 million American adults are compulsive orpathological gamblers.

Krieger maintains on the College PokerChampionship website that “poker is a game of skill and not randomchance. This makes it different from slot machines, bingo and thelottery.” 

Keith Whyte, executive director of NCPG,disagrees.

“There is a skill element to poker but it is agame of chance or it wouldn’t be gambling. If wasn’t, you could beable to determine who would win every time.”

When examined by race, African Americans havea higher rate of compulsive gambling than their white counterparts.A study conducted by the University of Chicago found that about twopercent of African Americans are likely to become pathologicalgamblers compared to less than one percent of Caucasians. 

Howard University student Chris Randle doesn’tplay poker but believes addiction to gambling is an issue to betaken seriously. 

“Poker is just not our game. It’s just notpart of our culture,” Randle said. “But there are just as manyother things that can become addictive because gambling can bereally fun. If you don’t have discipline and financial savvy, youcould be in trouble.”

George Washington University student Mark Mollis an abide poker but recognizes that it’s not foreveryone.

“We play about twice a week.  Idon’t know why I still do.  I guess it’s for thesocial interaction,competition, and material gain.  Idon’t have a problem with it but some people can’thandle it or give it up and it becomes addictive.”

Whyte agrees. “We should gamble responsiblyjust like they say to drink responsibly. People need to know thatthere is a down side besides just losing money.”