Deal me in

Sep 152004
Authors: Eric Klamper

“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

Web site.

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.

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