Five students sit around a table in the middle of the night, occasionally glancing up at each other only to look back down and focus on what they are doing.

As beads of sweat continue to build on their foreheads, no one is sure what time it is, 1 or 2 a.m. – they have been at it for hours and there is no sign of stopping until the work is done.

Some may think that this is a study group cramming for a midterm the next day.

They would be wrong.

These students are playing a poker game called No Limit Texas Hold ‘Em, the very same game that is played each summer in Las Vegas at the World Series of Poker.

“Almost everyone plays poker now,” said Matt Farrell, a business administration senior. “Most of us got into it after watching the World Series on ESPN.”

This summer, 8,773 people sat down and anteed up $10,000 each for a chance to grind their way to the final table at the 2006 World Series of Poker main event.

The winner of this year’s WSOP main event banked $12 million.

“This is the sonic boom of poker,” said Nolan Dalla, the media director of the WSOP, after Chris Moneymaker’s win. “This means anyone in their home can become a poker player.”

In 2004, the number of entrants in the main event grew from 839 to 2,576.

Both champions Moneymaker and Greg Raymer qualified for the main event tournament by winning satellite tournaments through online card rooms like and

“The accessibility is great,” said Farrell, who plays on and “You can get into a game at any time of day. But the down side is you can also lose money at any time of the day.”

According to a 2004 article in the Washington Post, the poker industry estimated that 50 to 80 million Americans are playing poker in some form.

“It seems like it’s a fad that won’t go away,” Farrell said. “For me it’s a great way to hang out with my friends and be competitive, and maybe make a few bucks too.”

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