By Laura BinderContributing Writer
Joel Esher didn’t need a good poker face to claim his Texas Hold ’em victory.
The Music senior from Newton, Mass., entered the online College Poker Championship III last winter through royalvegaspoker.com. The online tournament began in September 2005 and lasted into the following spring.
Esher placed in the top 10 percent in a primary tournament, which qualified him to play in the Midwest regional final May 14. He placed first and won a $1,000 prize.
But Esher’s winning streak ended when he came up against an opponent holding pocket aces. He failed to place in the top 10 of the national tournament May 21, where the grand prize was $50,000.
Esher said he wasn’t always a poker fan, but then he began playing casually with several friends during his freshman year of college.
“Some friends and I went to a house to play, and I had no idea what I was doing,” he said. “Eventually, though, it became a regular thing, and I started looking into playing online.”
Esher said he likes the College Poker Championship because it advertises poker as a game of skill, not gambling. He said that he thinks of the game in that way when he plays.
“I don’t consider it gambling when I go to casinos,” Esher said. “It’s just playing poker.”
The championship is also free to enter, so college students who are strapped for cash can improve their skills without risk. Instead of a gambling activity, the tournament is advertised as a scholarship competition that awards winners money to put towards college tuition.
The sponsors also give away a car every year in a tournament-related raffle.
“I don’t see myself going into professional tournaments,” said Esher. “I don’t have the money to risk losing more money.”
Royalvegaspoker.com is not the only online gaming site where college students can play for free and hone their skills until they’re sure they’re ready to lay their money down.
“Online poker is a fun way to spend my free time,” Weinberg sophomore Brian Levin said. “I like playing without money. It’s good practice.”
But online games are not popular among all poker players. Communication freshman Christopher Poole said he prefers to playing poker in person to playing online.
“Playing live poker is better,” Poole said.