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Poker craze tempts, entertains

The poker pro stares down at his two-card hand as sweat drips down his face. With his mediocre hand he bets half his dwindling chip stack in hopes of bluffing his opponents.

This may seem like a scene from a dramatic movie, but in fact, it is just one suspenseful moment of the many played out in an hour-long television show about professional poker. The world of poker, especially the poker variation Texas Hold’Em, has erupted into a gold mine of endorsements and entertainment.

“I watch poker on ESPN all the time,” Spenser Koleen, ’06, said. “It’s really entertaining and fun to watch the tension build up. It also amazes me that so much money is moved around so quickly.”

With primetime spots on ESPN, Travel Channel and Fox Sports, Texas Hold’Em has captivated audiences in a short amount of time. The World Poker Tour on the Travel Channel, airing at nine P.M. on Wednesday nights, rakes in millions of viewers on a weekly basis.

“In my opinion, the biggest problem with gambling is that there are too many people who gamble with money they shouldn’t be gambling with,” Principal Gary Schultz said. “People can’t stop. I bet you would be surprised at how many people’s lives are ruined from it.”

The glorification of gambling, partially due to the overwhelming popularity of Texas Hold’Em and local Indian casinos, has some worried about the effect on susceptible viewers.

“It worries me that gambling is shown on television,” Esther Tarudji, ’05, said. “I don’t think it’s a good idea for children to see something so prevalent in an adult world.”

With a carefree attitude, some teenagers and avid fans host poker get-togethers with friends. Bets range from no money to just small amounts and they do not have to visit Las Vegas.

Still, many are concerned about the effect gambling can have, even when only small amounts of money are used.

“It’s not so much the game itself that I object to as it is the inherent dangers that come with it,” campus pastor Scott Falk said. “The hazards of alcohol and gambling are paralleled. Both have innocent sides to them, but in excess they bring overwhelming danger.”

Table Mountain Casino, which lies in Fresno County, is a constant temptation for teens, as gambling is available there for 18-year-olds.

“I’ve gone to Table Mountain,” Brandon Diaso, ’05, said. “It’s a cool place to just have some fun; I can throw around the cards and maybe make some money. I certainly don’t feel like I’m compromising my morals by going there.”

According to most adults, the problem with gambling is not having a little fun here and there. The danger lies in getting hooked and not being able to stop.

“Stopping has never really been an issue for me,” Diaso said. “I decide exactly how much I’m willing to lose, and if I lose it, then that’s it. As for being hooked on it, I’ve only ever done it as a recreation, so just like any other recreation you do it sometimes and you don’t others.”

When people overload, the fun aspect of gambling dissipates into a world of despair. But, with moderation and self-control, people can enjoy gambling as an entertainment source.

For more information on ?Tilt”, visit www.espn-tilt.com.
For more information on The World Poker Tour, visit www.worldpokertour.com.
For more information on the World Series of Poker, visit http://espn.go.com/eoe/wop.html.

Eric Neufeld also contributed to this article.”~”Brianna Stobbe, Photographer”~”Practice makes perfect as these amateurs prepare for real gambling.

Here Chris White, ’05 [left], Ron Blalack, ’06, and Brandon Cain, ’06 [right], bet their chips and practice their poker faces in a friendly round of cards.”~”Illustration by Gary Darakjian”~”Gambling television shows and local casinos on Indian reservations have created an opportunity and maybe have popularized gamling with 18-year-old high school students.”~”“Tilt” Information

The World Poker Tour

World Series of Poker

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