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The Latest: All in for poker

Students experience big losses and big gains playing the hottest card game in town

 by Kristi Eaton  published on Thursday, February 10, 2005

<em>photo illustration by Brandon Quester / STATE PRESS MAGAZINE</em><br>
With the new craze of poker, chip sets such as this one have become common in student apartments, homes and dorm rooms./issues/arts/691895
Brandon Quester
photo illustration by Brandon Quester / STATE PRESS MAGAZINE
With the new craze of poker, chip sets such as this one have become common in student apartments, homes and dorm rooms.
 

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It's Tuesday night, and the only thing standing between accounting sophomore Ross Meyer and $50 are the five cards in his hands.

Meyer and four of his friends are huddled around a table. As each of them listens to his iPod, they stare each other down until one of them succumbs to the pressure and folds.

They are playing poker, now the hottest game in Hollywood and dorm rooms across the country.

The variety and popularity of poker and gambling shows on television is inarguable. There's the "World Series of Poker" on ESPN, the "Celebrity Poker Showdown" on Bravo and "The World Poker Tour" on the Travel Channel. And that's excluding fiction-based programs such as ESPN's "Tilt" and NBC's "Las Vegas," which is in its second season.

Meyer says he began playing in September after watching one of his friends win $250.

Now, he can hardly tear himself away. He says he gets together with his friends to play at least once a week.

"See that hand?" Meyer asks during Tuesday night's game. "That hand just cost me five bucks."

Meyer says he also plays online poker, a practice many students do during work and class.

Meyer plays online so much that he has become an affiliate of a Web site for international gambling called The Online Gaming Industry.

Meyer says like all poker players, he has had his fair share of wins and losses.

"The most I've won in a single day is $300, but I've also lost $100 in one day," he says as he throws his cards down on the table, revealing a pair of kings.

But gambling can become a serious addiction, says Renee Siegel, clinical director of ABC Wellness, a treatment center for gambling addiction in Scottsdale.

"(It) is more common than most people realize," says Siegel, who has treated more than 1,000 patients for gambling addiction.

She says most people don't take the addiction seriously until it gets out of control. Addiction symptoms include taking time off from work or school to gamble, losing a large amount of money in a game or committing crimes to get more money with which to gamble.

Siegel says the effects of gambling become apparent far more quickly than other addictions.

"What takes alcohol and drug addicts 10 to 20 years to do, it takes one and a half to three years for gambling addicts," she says.

Meyer says he realizes the addictive nature of gambling.

"I think it can become addicting," he says as he twirls a chip back and forth between his fingers. "But you just have to watch yourself."

Accounting sophomore Dan Massey feels a little more strongly about the ease at which gambling can take over someone's life.

Massey says he spent countless hours gambling online during winter. At one point he was up $600, but he lost it all within five hours.

"Online gambling is very easy to become addicted to," Massey says.

He adds that he and others often don't realize they are playing with real money.

"It doesn't hit you that you've lost all this money until afterwards," he says.

Massey says he eventually won back the $600 and more after he placed first in an eight-hour, 14-person game. The prize was $1,000.

Massey says he was attracted to the game after he saw "Rounders," a 1998 film starring Matt Damon as a former gambler who returns to his old ways to help his friend pay off loan sharks.

While the film was not a big hit at the box office, it has a loyal legion of followers.

"(It) is the best movie," Massey says. "If you ask any gambler, they will tell you that that movie had an affect on them."

Business freshman Brandon Brefczynski says his reason for gambling is plain and simple.

"I like to make money off my friends," he says.

Reach this reporter at kristi.eaton@asu.edu.



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