Phi Sigma Kappa fraternity continued to play off of the recent surge in popularity of Texas hold ’em poker Wednesday by holding its second tournament of the year for charity.

The event, which cost $20 to enter, began at 3:30 p.m. in Corwin Pavilion. More than 80 people entered the tournament, slightly short of the organizers’ goal of 100 participants. The event raised about $350 for the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) of Santa Barbara and Ventura.

Armen Boyajian, Phi Sigma Kappa philanthropy chair for the event and third year political science and business economics major, said the fraternity was the first group to hold a Texas hold ’em poker tournament on campus. He said it plans to continue hosting the tournament every Fall and Spring Quarter.

“Due to popular demand and the success of our event in the fall we decided to bring it back this quarter,” Boyajian said.

Chumash Casino donated all of the playing cards for the event. After subtracting the cost of the venue, poker chips, tablecloths and prizes, all proceeds from the event were donated to the VFW.

“We think it’s one of the most honorable charities that we could raise money for,” Boyajian said.

Phi Sigma Kappa members worked in shifts as dealers for the event.

“All our brothers are here to help run this event as smoothly and professionally as possible,” Boyajian said.

Until 6 p.m., players who were knocked out early were offered the chance to buy back in for $20 and start again with the same amount of chips they started with. Of the 60 players that joined the game within the first two hours, Nomo Nagaoka, junior business economics major and Phi Sigma Kappa member, said 12 took advantage of the re-buy option.

Play was stopped at about 5:30 p.m. to allow more people to arrive. When it began again at 6:00, approximately 20 more people had entered the game.
Nagaoka was managing the tournament for the duration of the night. He said he welcomed the short break in the action.

“It’s kind of stressful for me right now, trying to keep everything running smoothly,” Nagaoka said. “But it has been going good so far.”

Junior business economics major Micah Swets admitted that while he had hoped to do well in the tournament, he had not anticipated his third-place finish.

“I made a few mistakes, but whatever,” Swets said. “I didn’t think I’d make it this far. I just want to see who wins this thing.”

Swets and the crowd of approximately 20 people gathered around the final table watched for nearly 30 minutes as Mike Linetsky and Jeff Ferguson battled over the remaining chips. Both players bet all of their chips on one of the hands, only to find that they held identical cards and neither had won. Ferguson, who had a higher chip count, eventually won after wearing his opponent down by betting amounts Linetsky could not afford to lose.

Linetsky, a freshman business economics major, expressed disappointment at losing his earlier advantage on a particularly close hand.

“I started off with a pretty big stack [of chips],” Linetsky said. “I thought I had it in the bag, but I lost a pretty big pot and wasn’t able to fight my way back.”

Ferguson departed immediately after the event and was unavailable for comment.

Boyajian said he thoroughly enjoyed the final round.

“That’s always the most exciting part,” Boyajian said. “All in all it was a great time, and a pretty successful event. We’re hoping to do an even bigger one in the fall.”

Brian Reznick, a senior philosophy and law & society major, said he was impressed by the hosts’ professionalism.

“I enjoyed it,” Reznick said. “I thought it was run really well.”

Despite finishing eighth in the tournament, one place away from receiving a prize, Reznick said he was pleased with his performance.

“It doesn’t bother me,” Reznick said. “I was stoked that I went as far as I did with the hands I was dealt.”

Sophomore law and society major Gary Gomez said he was surprised by the level of competition at the tournament.

“I had a lot of fun,” Gomez said. “I played in a tournament with a $1,000 pot at Chumash [Casino] earlier today and took first place, but the players here were much more aggressive. Frankly, I think they were better players.”

While Nagaoka said he was pleased with the turnout, he said he hoped even more players would show up to the fraternity’s next tournament.

“We can always hope for more people,” Nagaoka said. “We want the event to continue to grow in the future.”

Phi Sigma Kappa Treasurer and junior political science major Greg Cogan said this year’s tournament was an important step toward establishing it as a regular, well-known event on campus.

“We’re looking toward next year and trying to get as much of the event sponsored as possible so we can donate more to charity,” Cogan said.

Prizes for the top finishers included a flat-screen TV, an iPod, a DVD player and several DVDs. Everyone who competed was presented with a complimentary shot glass. Boyajian said he hoped next year’s event would feature additions like real poker tables and cocktail waitresses.