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Danielle Toth

Poker is popular, but dangerous

Ohio Gaming College owners (and husband and wife) Vince Conforte and Cherie Dimmerling talk to a student at a blackjack table while reflected in game chips framed on the wall at the school in Macedonia.

Credit: Danielle Toth

It’s 2 a.m. and he has been playing for about six hours now.

If he could just catch a good hand, and make back the money he lost, he will go to sleep.

He is dealt the cards.

Ace/King, or “Big Slick” as some players call it.

He raises pre-flop. The other player calls.

Then comes the flop. Ace. King. King.

“I’ve got this,” he thinks. A full house on the flop. What could be better?

He raises again. Another player calls. What does he think he is calling?

The turn. Eight of hearts.

He goes all in. So does the other player. What?

The river. Nine of spades.

The other player shows his hand. Pocket aces. The only thing that could beat him.

He’s lost a lot of money tonight.

Poker, especially Texas Hold ’Em, has grown in popularity in the past few years. Even networks are jumping on the poker bandwagon. ESPN airs the World Series of Poker and Bravo shows Celebrity Poker Showdown.

“Oh, it’s an adrenaline rush,” junior paramedic major Greg Piatak said. “It is my release. I love the competition. It is so exciting. You can start at 8 at night and play ’til morning because you get so engulfed in the game.”

Sophomore psychology major David Fried agrees that a major reason he plays poker is the competition.

“I like the game,” he said. “It keeps me on my toes. I like the randomness of it. You can make good money from bad players.”

Poker can be a lot of fun — but also addictive.

The Ohio Lottery Commission encourages all gamblers, no matter the game, to play responsibly.

It suggests several tips to keep in mind while gambling: Never play with borrowed money. Bet only what you can afford to lose. Know your odds. Set a limit and stick to it. Bet with your head, not above it.

Players such as Piatak and Fried devote as much time as possible to poker.

“Up until recently I played a lot — about 30 hours a week,” Fried said. “Now I probably play five to 10 hours a week.”

Thirty hours a week is close to a full-time job — which is why Piatak and Fried prefer playing poker to working.

Piatak played poker over the summer to earn money, but now he supplements his income by working as a server at Applebee’s.

Fried, on the other hand, does not have a job.

“I can make more money playing poker than I can working at most jobs,” he said. “At Burger King last summer I made $6 an hour. I can make a lot more than that playing poker.”

A lot more. The most Fried has made in a day is $600 — but that is also the most he’s lost in a day. Piatak said he made $1,500 in a tournament — but he also lost $2,500 once.

“In no limit there are huge swings, and there are times no matter how right you play your cards, luck just doesn’t go your way,” he said. “But if you stick it out, you will usually end up on top.”

Piatak and Fried play live games when they can but prefer to play no limit Texas Hold ‘Em online using PartyPoker.

“I prefer to play online for several reasons,” Fried said. “You can always find a game at any hour of the day online. You can play multiple tables at once. The dealer is faster, giving you the ability to play more hands and make more of a profit. And you have the ability to choose your own stakes.”

Each player has his or her own strategy.

“Play tight. Play aggressive,” Fried said. “Take the initiative when you have a good hand. Raise more than you call. Think about more reasons to fold than more reasons to call. But also be willing to take risks. You have to be willing to put all your chips on the line sometimes.”

Both Fried and Piatak agree on the importance of tells, things people do that can tell how they will play.

“Watch how people bet — they really do tend to fall into patterns,” Piatak said. “That’s one of the biggest tells I’ve noticed online. Also, know when to walk away. Set a limit.”

Contact features reporter Danielle Toth at [email protected].