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ISSUE 117 VOL 16 PUBLISHED 4/23/2004

A cache of chips

By Jaruwan Punyoyai
Contributing Writer

Friday, April 23, 2004

Throughout history, one game has been a consistently fundamental part of America's collective social fabric: poker. While the game of poker has not always been the most popular form of American entertainment, it has recently become quite a national phenomenon. Poker, especially the highly popular form of the game known as "Texas Hold 'em," is present in contemporary films, television, literature and households across America.

The poker epidemic has spread to the Hill as well, consuming entire residence halls, leaving wallets (both empty and filled-to-capacity) in its wake. For some students, playing poker is simply the continuation of a long-standing love affair with the game. Students like Mike Frasier `04 have been poker players for almost a decade.

"Poker games are much more frequent on campus than at home, and in the past year playing poker has become much more popular than it ever was before," Frasier said.

Noah Loome `05 agrees that students are playing more poker than ever before. However, he cites a bandwagon craze to explain poker's recent popularity. "It's like people who only watch the Twins when they're winning; poker is just the thing to do now," Loome, a weekly player, said. Others, including Fraiser, attribute poker's resurgence to recent television programs like "World Poker Tour" on the Travel Channel and "World Series of Poker" on ESPN. These games showcase the greatest poker players on earth and command loyal viewership.

The pay-off of playing poker is increasing as well. The "World Series of Poker" boasts a first prize of $2.5 million, a winner's share bigger than the Kentucky Derby, Wimbledon and the Indianapolis 500. Clearly, the prize for the average St. Olaf game doesn't compare to the "World Series," but players find motivations other than money to play. Most players agree that the most appealing aspect of the game is the camaraderie between players. "I play because I love the game and the psychology involved in it," Frasier said.

These days, one doesn't even need friends to play poker. Online gaming websites are available to those without the time or resources to organize a game, as is often the case for Ben Veach `07 who plays online "Texas Hold 'em" during study breaks. "It's a fun game, and although I like to play with my friends, it's getting easier to play it whenever I want," Veach said.

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