“I checked on the flop and found no love on 4th street, but then
I made my boat on the river and took down the pot with a pair of
ducks and three cowboys.”
To most people, this string of nonsense and gibberish makes
absolutely no sense. But to the wave of poker fanatics who are
taking over living rooms and garages every week across town, this
is just the common lingo of their hobby, or for some, their
In the past year, poker has found its way from Las Vegas casinos
and into the mainstream, pushing the card game into homes and
establishments across the nation.
“Poker has definitely gotten more popular around here,” said
Caleb Jensen, a Fort Collins resident who hosts poker games at his
house every week. “It’s such an easy game to get into, but it
definitely takes skill to play well.”
These guys aren’t playing for pretzels and peanuts either. At
many poker games, there is quite a substantial amount of money
being put on the table. Sometimes, hundreds of dollars are on the
line, and the chance to take home that kind of cash keeps players
coming back for more.
“This might be just some fad, but right now, the prospect of
turning $20 into $300 makes it worth it,” said Jason Howard, a
junior marketing major. “Usually, I win or lose only like $20, or
maybe break even, so it’s not too bad.”
Not everyone is enjoying their poker experience, however. Some
college students who are already on a tight budget walk away from
the table depleted both financially and mentally. Poker can be a
game that demands a thick bankroll and a keen eye for
“The thing about poker is getting to know the players and going
up against them, rather than just the cards,” said Mark Warner a
Fort Collins resident and underground poker enthusiast. “I remember
one kid who came over and lost pretty big and left all distraught.
He was in the front yard punching a tree. More than the loss of the
money, it’s the loss of pride that hurts most.”
It’s not only the homes of Fort Collins that harbor these
underground games anymore, as many bars around town have
incorporated weekly poker nights into their schedule.
Washington’s Bar and Grill, 132 Laporte Ave., held its first
poker night Monday and plans to continue doing so in the
“We’ll have a sports game on TV and customers will ask us to get
poker going instead,” said Kimo Sterling, owner of Washington’s.
“It’s had such a surge in popularity. Luckily we’re in a state
where this is legal.”
However, many underground poker games would be deemed illegal by
state law, which is strictly against gambling for profit.
“It is declared to be the policy of the general assembly,
recognizing the close relationship between professional gambling
and other organized crime, to restrain all persons from patronizing
such activities when conducted for profit of any person,” as
written in the Colorado State Legislature sec. 18-10-101.
Of course, there are always loopholes to get around these pesky
laws, and many bars and establishments of Fort Collins are
utilizing this fact.
There is no buy-in at most bar poker games, and therefore there
is technically no way for the bar to profit from the game, unless
you count the drinks and meals that are consumed during the course
of the event.
“The real gray area about poker nights is the profit we make
from selling the things that we normally sell,” Sterling said.
“We’re not regulated by the gaming commission; we’re regulated by
the liquor commission.”
Some bars have found that poker nights can be problematic and
cause too much of a risk for them to continue.
The Avenue, 151 S. College Ave., used to host poker nights but
decided to cancel such future events.
“There was just too much money getting involved and too many
problems to keep hosting (poker nights),” said Sam Rosenbaum, a
manager at The Avenue. “We’re just done with it.”
Despite the illegal implications of underground poker, there is
yet to be any severe punishments handed out by authorities to an
establishment or a residence.
“I don’t know of any instance where we’ve enforced anything
about gambling so it must not be a real problem,” said
Administrative Lt. Karl Swenson, for the CSU Police Department.
“But you can see how (gambling) could be a liability to the
One area of poker that has raised concerns from authorities is
online poker games and tournaments.
There are more than 100 listings for online poker rooms, many of
which have thousands of people simultaneously playing during each
Awards include vacations, vehicles and cash prizes.
There are six states, not including Colorado, that prohibit
Internet gambling. But enforcement of this policy is nearly
impossible because of the nature of the Internet.
Along with poker’s Internet presence, many other media outlets
have found ways to profit from pokers recent popularity.
Movies such as “Rounders” and “Shade” have glorified poker and
given it an appeal to the general public, much of which was
previously unaware of games like Texas Hold’em, which is now a very
common game. Also, television shows on the Travel Channel, Fox
Sports Net and ESPN often air programs that pair poker games with
celebrities and set the games to music for a dramatic effect.
The World Series of Poker, which has a grand prize of $5
million, attracts millions of viewers each year and has become one
of the most popular ‘reality TV’ programs, according to the ESPN
In Fort Collins, the poker frenzy has proven to be abundant as
well. Many people are choosing to stay at home on weekends and
gamble away small portions of their student loans, rather than go
out on the town.
“I just love taking my friends’ money,” Howard said.