There's responsible drinking for the college crowd. Then
there’s safe sex. Why not "safe poker?"
A course in “safe poker” would have helped Greg Hogan, the
Lehigh University sophomore who ran up $5,000 in debts to
cover losses on an online poker site. Greg got so desperate
that he headed into the Wachovia Bank in Allentown, passed
the teller a note saying he was robbing the joint, sauntered
out with $2,781, got into an SUV with some buddies (he told
them he was going into the bank to cash a check) and
toodled away. A bystander noted the license plate number.
Greg and friends then went to a movie, “The Chronicles of
Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe” (Roger
Ebert: “Charming and scary in about equal measure”).
Later he headed for orchestra practice where he plays the
cello. There he was met by seven policemen.
This is no poor kid, desperately playing poker to cover
expenses. Hogan, the son of a Baptist minister in Ohio,
graduated from a $19,000 per year private high school
outside Cleveland in 2004. He enrolled the same year at
Lehigh University in Bethlehem, which costs about $42,000 a
year for a first-year student living on campus. At Lehigh, he
was a chaplain’s assistant.
This year, he became a member of the Sigma Phi Epsilon
fraternity and moved into the on-campus frat house. He was
elected president of the sophomore class.
What went wrong? Hogan is safely barricaded behind his
attorney and family. He ain’t talkin’. But he is not the first
college student to get caught up in the online poker craze.
There are a growing number of tournaments just for college
students. Absolutepoker.com awards a semester’s tuition to
its tournament winners. Penn State won collegepoker.com’s
tournament and was named best poker college by that site. Is there a dorm or student union where Texas Hold ‘em is not
Since anyone who can pony up money and transmit it in the
proper way to an offshore poker site, there is the temptation
for anyone, college student or not, to take on a new,
What’s the best way to keep out of trouble? Here are a few
1. Stick with free poker sites until you learn the game.
Really learn the game.
2. Texas Hold ‘em has been called “a game of high
cards.” Pick up a couple books on poker. Many pros have
shared sound advice. Play only the best hands. Stop chasing unlikely straights and flushes.
3. If you are to play for money, start small. Every pro will
tell you that they were losers in the beginning of their
careers. They often played at small stakes, moved up to
higher stakes, lost, moved back down, moved back up. Don’t
start out at a level where you can lose a lot of money. Stick to
the bunny slope: fifty cents and a buck are fine. Win a little,
lose a little. Have fun.
4. Don’t assume you are the next Phil Ivey, Annie Duke,
or Daniel Negreanu. The pros that you see on TV in the big
tournaments are of another breed: they are master
mathematicians who know the odds of every hand they play.
They have years of experience behind them. And the hands
you see on TV are highly edited and not at all representative
of hands/situations that you will face.
5. Shuffle up and deal. Good luck.
© 2005 Murphy James