Holdin’ the interest of students

Jacqueline Lebowitz

The open IM boxes on his computer screen light up and go unnoticed because senior Ryan Tanacredi is too focused at the moment to move. His eyes stare at the screen in front of him and his head rests upon his left hand. His right hand, however, twitches nervously and hovers over the mouse button of his laptop. Click. He has just ended an hour-long game of online poker and won $100.

This may be a familiar scene for Villanova students. The staring, the intense concentration and the jitteriness accompany one of the more popular and time-consuming hobbies on campus: online poker.

“Personally, I’m really happy with online poker,” says Tanacredi. “I put no money into it and got lucky in the freerolls of 2,200 people and came in fifth and third consecutively. I made $85 from that and last week I made $300.”

Tanacredi’s roommates are also caught up in the online craze. Junior John Morganelli warns about the downfalls of online poker, however.

“If you are going to get involved, know your limits and stick to them,” he says. “If you start saying, ‘one more game,’ you’ll find your money disappearing electronically and it’s a horrible feeling.”

Some of the advantages of online poker include the ability to play many different games at once, hand logs, pre-action buttons, preset personal settings (which make it harder for compulsive gamblers to lose all their money), relatively small time in between bets and the ability to play with people from all over the world. For those who wish to start, there are a plethora of books and tutorials available to assist new players with tips and advice from the pros.

There are some disadvantages to online poker, however. It is relatively impossible to get a read on opponents, which hurts more experienced players. Additionally, the chips are virtual and carry no physical weight, making it easier for the player to bet large amounts of money without attaching a monetary value to it. It is also easier for players to hit and run.

According to John Vorhaus, author of “Killing Poker Online: Crushing the Internet Game,” the majority of online poker players eventually lose money. Despite this warning, many students continue to play.

John Terzano, a Villanova alum who graduated in 2003, is a two-time Vegas visitor and also participates in online poker for fun in his free time.

“Personally, I am better at online poker because I have a very readable face,” admits John.

However, Terzano voices some concernswith online poker: “I’m still a little bit nervous because they aren’t actual cards. I just don’t trust it enough to put my money into it.”

Junior Annemarie Terzano, John’s sister, also plays poker but abstains from using online sites.

“I like to play Texas Hold’em in a party atmosphere,” she says . “I’ve never actually played online poker because I really don’t have enough time and I just don’t think it’s as fun as when you actually play with friends.”

Junior Jon Mahon plays primarily in tournaments and doesn’t pay to play. He admits that there is a big difference between the techniques he uses when playing for fun and those he uses when playing for money, and he warns against assuming they are the same.

On his desktop are numerous icons for different poker sites he has investigated: Party Poker, Pacific Poker and Royal Vegas Poker. They are all similar, but some of the features differ slightly from site to site.

Mahon even taught his girlfriend to play online poker and set her up with an account. Kristen Frank, also a junior, enjoys playing without the pressure of losing money and uses online poker to practice so she can play real poker with friends.

“I think it’s a good way for girls to get involved, even though traditionally more guys play,” Frank says .

Sophomore Jordan Doria, is also a newcomer to the online game who started playing over the summer but quickly stopped when he started losing.

“Online poker isn’t true poker,” Doria says. “There is not as much skill involved with online poker because the game is about playing the person, not the cards. I would say luck is a larger factor online than in person.”