sheila sobchik

It’s the mental discipline that separates the inexperienced from the experienced in the game of poker, twins Devin and Taylor Biehn said. A player must be able to stay composed and focused for long periods of time as well as be disciplined enough to not make impulsive decisions even when their account takes a turn for the worse.

“You have to learn to control your emotions and overcome them,” said Chris Corina, an agriculture business freshman. “I quit playing for a while, the pressure and the stress from playing takes a lot of control.”

Experienced players like the Biehns also have learned to use what is known as “the snowball effect” to their advantage.

“The snowball effect means that it takes more money to make more money,” Taylor Biehn said.

The twins explained that experienced players can harness the temptation to gamble their money as the winnings increase, an aspect of the snowball effect many novices can’t control.

Some possess the mental toughness needed to be successful in poker, but for others the odds are simply too great.

“Most of the Web sites show that only 15 percent of players are winners,” Corina said.

With the odds of winning not in their favor, many students have had their bouts of luck, but eventually decide that poker isn’t their forte.

“I’m probably done with poker, I don’t have the discipline and I was gambling, not playing poker,” economics junior Jeff Bissell said. “People putting money into poker isn’t the smartest idea; if you’re a gambler it’s not a good investment.”

The rewards can be high in the world of online poker, but the time and commitment needed to become successful can affect education as well.

“I spend more time doing this (playing poker) than school,” Devin Biehn said.

The dedication to poker excellence has also led students to schedule their studying around the game.

“It (poker) forces me to cram the night before and the day of the test as opposed to studying in advance,” Taylor Biehn said. “It most definitely gets in the way of school, as a summer school class I took should have netted me an ‘A,’ instead I walked with a ‘C+.’”

Many of the successful players have grown accustomed to the sleepless nights, the falling grades, the hours of disciplinary training to endure the stress of poker and the long days glued to a computer. But is success just addiction?

Just like drugs or alcohol, gambling and poker can consume a student to the point of addiction.

“Addiction is always about reinforcement; the goal of the behavior is to feel excited, euphoric and free,” said B.J Davis, a doctoral intern at the Cal Poly counseling center.

The fascination with online poker has captivated college students throughout the nation, but it’s the overindulgence that is leading to sleep deprivation, debt and slipping grades that has people wondering why so many college students become victims.

“College students by nature experience new freedom with the lack of restraints from home. It’s the independence and the lack of self-discipline or life experience to make decisions that can lead to addictive behavior,” Davis said.

Along with addiction, many college students are financially supported by their parents, and the money they are losing oftentimes isn’t their own. Yet, despite the depleting bank accounts, students continue to gamble their parents’ money away.

“My parents used to have a problem with it (poker), but now they have seen how much money we’ve made and don’t really have a problem anymore,” Devin Biehn said. “They still want us to get our education though, a career as a poker player really isn’t what they want for us.”

The popularity of poker has grown by leaps and bounds since its introduction into cyberspace, making few and breaking many. Despite unfavorable odds, countless hours of poker study and flirting with addiction; thousands still join the growing trend of players “digging for online gold.”

Fad or not, if one plays his cards right, there is money to be made.

“This is the modern day stock market of the ’90s, you gotta take advantage of it,” Cornia said. “I view it as a good investment for the future and I’m shooting for $200,000 by the time I graduate.”

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