Eight U of C card sharps may bet big at poker competition

By Hassan S. Ali

Amidst the ongoing poker craze sweeping across college campuses, a handful of University of Chicago students have taken their game to the next level.

The Second Annual College Poker Championship has captured the attention of avid poker fans through a unique tournament series open to registered college students worldwide. In search of “the best Texas Hold’em, No Limit college poker player in the world,” the tournament has garnered significant popularity with its multi-faceted approach to the game. “Colleges have a fine poker-playing tradition,” reads the College Poker Championship’s mission statement. “[So] it seems natural to hold another tournament where poker-playing students from all colleges can come together and test their skills against each other, while competing for huge scholarship awards to fund their educational endeavors.” Along with cash prizes for students, the tournament provides fundraising opportunities for charities and an informal forum for competition between students, schools, and countries.

In response to the common concerns over losing money and developing addictions, the College Poker Championship emphasizes that it does not encourage gambling by students. For that reason, entry into the tournament is free, with all events being played with tournament chips, according to game regulations. “In the College Poker Championship there is no financial risk because no purchase is ever required to be awarded a cash scholarship” reads a statement on the tournament’s website.

Serge Voronov, a first-year in the College, is one of eight students representing the University in the quest for big money. “My experience with the tournament has been great,” he said. “It’s a good way to relax on Sundays and there’s no pressure when I’m playing, since there’s no chance that I can lose money.”

The prize, however, is serious business for players like Voronov. According to the tournament’s website, players who place 11th to 80th in the Online Final will share $15,500 of scholarship awards, while players who place 1st to 10th each win a share in $94,500 with the winner alone pocketing a hefty $41,000. As an additional part of the Online Final, charitable donations amounting to $10,000 will be made to any charity or organization designated by the Top 10 players. Chicago players have designated such groups as the American Cancer Society, Greenpeace, University Theater School Partnership Program, Red Cross, and A Woman’s Fund as their charitable organizations of choice.

According to the official rules, the tournament is open exclusively to registered students worldwide who are enrolled as either full or part-time graduate or undergraduate students for the academic year. Eligible universities and colleges include two-year and four-year programs and graduate schools that are recognized and accredited institutions. Finally, students must be at least 18 years of age to participate. The tournament’s structure revolves around 37 qualifying rounds known as “Super Satellites” with $500 in scholarship awards each week. Lasting just over eight months, this year’s tournament began in August 2004, with the last Super Satellite round to be played on Sunday, May 8, 2005. Each Super Satellite gives the opportunity to secure a place in the Satellite Event, as the top 10 percent of players in each Super Satellite qualify for the Satellite Event, which will be played on May 15, 2005. According to the tournament’s rules, this Satellite Event offers $5,000 in scholarship awards and the top 20 percent of players in the Satellite Event secure a place in the Online Final. The main event is the Online Final, held on May 22, 2005, where the winners of the coveted $94,500 in scholarships will be determined.

So far, University student participants have fared decently in the tournament’s overall rankings. The best performance was a 17th-place finish in one of the Super Satellite rounds. Currently, the University is ranked 115th with 560 points, fighting to break a tie with Northwestern University (ranked 116th) in the tournament’s spirit of scholastic competition. The University of Florida, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Purdue University, and University of Illinois-Urbana-Champaign are some of the highest-ranked schools in the tournament.

Students can find more information and register on the tournament’s website collegepokerchampionship.com.