The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

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Texas Hold ’em stakes high at University Student Union

In the middle of the ninth poker tournament held this semester, Walter Chen started to play a football arcade game close to the five filled poker tables to his right side and pointed to the Texas Hold ’em standings on the wall of the Games Room in the University Student Union as “pokerpalooza” was in full shuffle.

Chen, a third-year family studies major, did not need to worry about the more than 30 poker players trying to earn a spot in the USU-sponsored Texas Hold ’em Spring 2006 Poker Championship May 10 at the Pub Sports Grill, because he will already be playing for the title. Since Chen won the eighth tournament, he earned 500 points and received an automatic berth into the championship game as the current fifth-ranked player.

“I was just calm and relieved that I actually won with the two pairs because there was a flush draw,” Chen said, referring to how he had won. “I went all in at the turn and then that’s when he called me.”

With only one poker tournament left on April 27 before the championship tournament, the event became the last opportunity for any CSUN student to have a chance to qualify for the title game as only the top 20 players who have the most points make the cut.

Jeremy Hamlett, Commercial Services manager of USU said sign-ups for the 10th tournament will be in the Games Room. With five poker tables and eight seats for each, the event is limited to 40 players. Nonetheless, there will be a waiting list for those students looking to play. If a player signed up but did not show up at 4 p.m., the order of the waiting list determined who held that person’s seat.

These rules were created by Hamlett, who coordinated the project that began in Fall 2005. Since poker became immortalized on ESPN and popularized across many college campuses, Hamlett said he noticed a perfect opportunity to get this project off the ground to CSUN students.

On the walls near the main desk in the Games Room are pictures of last semester’s poker champion along with a plaque bearing the names of the first, second and third place finishers. Winners will receive trophies as well as their names inscribed on the same plaque in the Games Room.

The combination of noise from students heckling, arcade games rumbling and poker chips moving presented an electric Vegas-style atmosphere in the Games Room which operated like a genuine casino without monetary-gambling exchanges.

“We wanted to offer (students) something that they can do in a safe and close environment,” Hamlett said. “By not charging an entrance fee and by not giving out cash prizes, we’re working within our legal responsibilities to have this tournament.”

Hamlett said that in playing poker, you shouldn’t play for money but for bragging rights and pride. Cities such as Las Vegas have a high-stakes atmosphere where playing poker could become addictive and lead a person to compulsive gambling, he said.

“I think poker is fun to some point,” Chen said. “But once you have a gambling problem or once money is involved, it’s a different story.”

He also said he has been playing poker for about six years, since before Texas Hold em became popular. His father and sister who both work in a casino.

Chen is one of the many male players in poker tournaments this spring.

For the past nine weeks, Hamlett said the once-a-week poker tournaments have been drawing about 35 players for a 40 player maximum capacity allotment. He also said, however, that there have been only about two to three female players on average showing up for the tournaments.

“We’ve actually been trying to reach out to the female players on campus because we want them to come in and get involved,” Hamlett said.

By the ninth tournament, there was only one woman who was playing poker and another woman simply dealing the cards.

Huma Burawala, a second year student majoring in psychology, was the only female card dealer that day.

“I played poker in high school but I don’t play for money,” Burawala said. “I just play for the fun of it.”

Burawala said she knows a couple female friends who play poker but very few compared to male players.

“I guess it’s a more masculine thing to do,” Burawala said.

When Chen steps into the Pub Sports Grill May 10 for the championship tournament, he said he will be ready for the challenge.

“I know most of the reads and I know what cards should fold mostly,” Chen said.

Before CSUN’s own version of the “World Series of Poker,” one more tournament will be played April 27 that could possibly get anyone in to the championship game.

Are you all in?

Arthur Vong can be reached at

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