Mobile Gambling and Poker

The University of Chicago

The University of Chicago isn't a light-hearted type of place. The students are intensely academic all-stars who take pride in their school's world renown as a center of higher learning. The University of Chicago claims more Nobel Laureates than any other college in the country. And it is impossible to imagine students at any other university going without sleep for three days while doing everything from building a nuclear reactor to creating "a battlebot weighing no more than 1.57 stone, and having no weapons of a projectile or blade nature" during the university's annual Scav Hunt.

And yet, as serious as everyone on the gargoyle-dotted campus takes, well, just about anything, there is indeed some room for fun at the University of Chicago.

And a lot of that fun takes place around a poker table.

A weekly dorm tournament with a $10 buy-in, held by the unofficial poker club, draws about 30 players, according to Phil, one of the university's leading poker players. While the university has refused to give the club official recognition, Phil said, that hasn't deterred students from seeking out live hold'em games. He estimated that half the student body (about 2,300 students) knows the basics of poker well enough to keep their stack, at least through a few hands, and that five percent play regularly.

At a school where students spend weeks and sometimes years in the library, it's a powerful testament to poker's popularity that students are not only playing regularly but are pushing the university to recognize their thus-far-unofficial poker club.

"Our club is not an official 'club' in the university sense," Phil said. "They don't acknowledge our existence, I don't think we are very controversial, and people make a bigger deal out of it than they should." The problem, according to several university official quoted in the student newspaper, the Chicago Maroon, is due to Illinois' state gaming laws.

Yet even without any official club, poker fever is spreading faster than the announcements of the latest round of Nobel Laureates. Phil said that in addition to the weekly tournaments, there are higher-stakes frat games and a contingent that makes regular pilgrimages to the gambling boats in Chicago and nearby areas of Illinois. The frat tournaments, Phil said, tend to be fund-raisers with higher stakes, with the frat itself taking a rake. At the regular club games, however, there is no rake.

So, while the University of Chicago might well be a world-class academic powerhouse, there seem to be swelling ranks of students who will play their cards just right and put it on the poker map. And if these superstars of higher learning turn some of that knowledge to poker, who knows what might happen. If there are University of Chicago students out there who can build themselves a nuclear reactor with civilian supplies, then building a winning poker hand and reading opponents might be as easy as building a working Ferris wheel entirely of pasta (a requirement from the 2001 Scav Hunt).