Murphy James - 'Safe' Poker for the College Crowd
Philly Spectrum

'Safe' Poker for the College Crowd

Murphy James

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 being played?

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,
irresponsible habit.  

What’s the best way to keep out of trouble?  Here are a few suggestions:

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