Poker parties and girl power

Steven Harbaugh

Katie Vaughan, sophomore physical education major, places her bet during yesterday’s Kent State Poker Showdown sponsored by Kent Presbyterian Church. Vaughan said she plays online often.

Credit: Steven Harbaugh

The sounds of clinking poker chips hitting hardwood tables and occasional bouts of laughter flowed through Eastway yesterday evening.

“Yes!” junior mathematics major Beth Bollenbacher exclaimed, breaking the semi-silence. She corralled a large cluster of multi-colored poker chips from the center of the table to her corner and arranged them in neatly-stacked piles.

“I would cash out right now, if I could,” she said with a smile.

Although only four of the almost 60 players were women, the females reigned supreme during the first half of the first annual Kent Presbyterian Church-sponsored Poker Tournament in Eastway yesterday evening. Although no money was on the line in the Texas Hold’em version of the game, the grand prize was a 35-inch television courtesy of the Presbyterian student organization that is affiliated with Kent Presbyterian Church at 1456 Summit St.

Several tables over, sophomore Katie Vaughan, an avid online poker champ, remained modest — even when she consistently dominated the board.

But not everyone was a winner.

Those who were out of the game made their way to a video camera on a tripod at the front of the room where they shared their exit interview detailing their elimination.

This is the first time Kent Presbyterian has tried a poker tournament, an idea that campus minister Aaron Meadows came up with when he noticed a lot of college students gathering in Eastway to play poker.

The idea was not exactly welcomed. The poker tournament endured a great deal of criticism in the development stages from those in the community. Many critics of the idea have said it doesn’t comply with religious principles and that the group is working to feed gambling addictions.

“We’re just throwing out our name,” Meadows said, adding that it is a way to bring together the campus community and give people something fun to do. “We don’t want to be overbearing if folks don’t want to talk about faith.”

Reggie Smith, a Kent State alumni, attended because he heard about the tournament from a friend. He was unaware it was sponsored by a church.

“It is a good way to reach out to the community,” he said, noting the popularity of TV poker shows. Recent TV shows such as Bravo’s “Celebrity Poker Showdown” and the Travel Channel’s “World Poker Tour.” These shows use a similar method of documenting exit interviews that Kent Presbyterian emulated.

The poker tournament will conclude at 8 p.m. Sunday in room 240 of Eastway when the eight winners from last night’s tournament will battle it out for the television. Those who wish to watch the action are welcome to attend.

Smith said he is always interested in playing poker with new people.

“Poker’s where it’s at nowadays,” Smith said. “It’s not just for businessmen and older people anymore. It seems to be more for everyone now.”

Contact religion and culture reporter Steven Harbaugh at [email protected].