Will the Texas hold ’em craze ever fade away?

Brian Kimmes

Brian Kimmes

The upshot:Texas hold ’em poker continues to be popular across the country and at college campuses.

Mathews hall recently held a poker tournament and twice the expected number showed up.

Here’s the story:

Shuffle up and deal.

These words can be heard at campuses, casinos and homes all across the country.

South Dakota State University is no different. On Sept. 17 Mathews Hall put on a no-limit Texas hold ’em poker tournament.

Sixty-five students turned out for the night’s main event-many more than what tournament organizers expected. Brian Olinger, a Mathews Hall resident assistant and athletic training sophomore, helped set up the tournament and was one of the final eight players. He says the size of the poker-playing crowd really surprised him.

“I believe it was an overwhelming success,” he says. “We expected 30 to 35 [players], and we exceeded expectations.”

The tournament was split up into nine tables, with the winner of each table meeting at one final table to determine the champion for the evening. Each participant in the tournament started out with sixty-five credits in chips. Since this was a campus activity, and most players were under the age of 21, no money was required to enter.

As shown by the huge turnout, poker has gained huge popularity on college campuses over the past couple of years. This year over 2,500 people entered the World Series of Poker, the granddaddy of all poker tournaments. That number was over triple the previous record amount.

Poker television shows are quite commonplace now. Cable sports channel ESPN televised more coverage of the World Series of Poker this year than any other year. The network televised poker games that had never been on TV before. Fellow cable channel Bravo has a poker series, called Celebrity Poker, where celebrities play for charities. The cable-only Travel Channel airs poker once week on its World Poker Tour show. The show travels around the world and broadcasts poker tournaments. Fox Sports Net has also had its own poker series as well as broadcasting various poker tournaments.

Many of the Mathews Hall tournament players said the extensive TV poker coverage got them playing.

“I started playing poker three years ago after watching the World Series of Poker on TV,” freshmen Sam West says. “I like the World Series of Poker the best, but it is only on once a year. My other favorite is Celebrity Poker.”

Sophomore Brian Nelson, who won the Mathews Hall tournament watches poker frequently on TV. His personal favorite is Celebrity Poker. “I like Celebrity Poker the best because I am better than they are,” he says.

Online poker games keep getting more popular, and there is no shortage of poker websites where you can bet both real and fake money. Both Nelson and West said they play poker online, for fake money, almost everyday. They try to play with friends at school when they can.

“I usually play with friends once or twice a week, for fake money,” says West.

Nelson says poker has become a regular event among his friends.

“During the summer we would play almost every other day, but during the school year we play whenever have we have free time,” he says.

Olinger says the idea for the poker tournament came from the game’s growing popularity on his floor. The large turnout means there will probably be another event on Friday, Sept. 24.

He said the tournament gives students a fun alternative to other activities.

“It keeps kids out of trouble,” he says.