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Life is good as a college poker star

"Hey Dave," I whispered into my cell. "I need you for a second."

It was just then that I realized what an interesting turn of events my life had taken after I made an innocent deposit of $50 into a PartyPoker.com account two years earlier, while living in my Blackwell dorm room. I was seated in a mafia-owned card room in downtown New York City. My hands were glossed over with grease from a filthy, worn-down table and poker chips that had probably been in use for fifteen years without being washed.

The other four players at the table were all down significant sums of money, and it was all because on this night I couldn't miss. Everything was just working. Every time I bluffed, they folded. When I was dealt big hands, I got paid off.

They were all not happy, and I was beginning to feel uncomfortable and a little scared. I had an army of chips in front of me that spanned from elbow to elbow. I was beginning to worry about actually turning my near-semester-sized-tuition win into cash.

I mean, my future kids need food, clothing, and shelter, right?

"Just come down to the room," I said to Dave. "I'll buy you food." I hung up.

It was almost lunch break for normal people, and I had been there since 11 the night before. I turned back to the table, threw my phone in my pocket, and looked at my next Texas Hold'em hand which was a pretty pair of black kings.

The tired, irritated owner of the club, who was down far more than anyone else, raised to $40 from the small blind before I made it $300 from the big blind. He called me right away which was nothing unusual. He was, and still is, the worst player I have ever played with at these stakes.

The flop came down with a king, a nine and an eight, all with different suits. To my astonishment he stood up, pounded his fist on the table and said one of the most horrifying things I have ever heard.

"You little [expletive]," he bellowed in his eastern-European accent. "You always beat me, but I'm not letting you [expletive] kid beat me again."

He then shoved his chips all-in for just over $2,500 and began to stare at me. I paused for a few seconds and carefully weighed my options knowing that I had the best hand. Then I folded.

"I've had enough tonight guys," I said cautiously.

Thankfully, Dave arrived shortly and stood by my side while I collected my money. I guess two physically unimposing engineers are better than one, because we walked out onto the busy streets of the city without any problems.

My academic and social experiences at Duke have been awesome, but I have gotten the added bonus of finding this card game that has opened new doors for me. I've been able to travel to Vienna, Austria, Paris and London on trips funded by poker. I was forced to learn on the fly how to invest money and pay taxes, and I have also met many of my friends through poker.

After hearing a story like this, you can probably safely rule out the fact that it will be on some pamphlet the admissions office hands out to high-school seniors.

But in my opinion going to college and finding something like poker is what it's all about, regardless of where it takes you. Many people fill the same void in their life with stuff like sports, a love for movies, academic research or religion. It's what makes college special.

Now if only I could get that $3,000 back.

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