Nearly 150 poker sharks and beginners played for pride and prizes in a Texas Hold’em tournament Tuesday night in Corwin Pavilion.
Phi Sigma Kappa fraternity hosted the fund-raising tournament, in which participants paid a $20 buy-in fee to enter the contest. The fraternity raised $2,500 from the buy-in fees, which will be donated to the Special Olympics Foundation, said Armen Boyajian, Phi Sigma Kappa’s chair of philanthropy. This is the third such tournament the fraternity has held in the past two years. Profits from the previous tournaments were given to Santa Barbara organizations helping in fire relief efforts last year and to the Veterans of Foreign Wars organization.
David Bergeron, a junior communication major, won the first place prize – an iPod – at 12:45 this morning after almost eight hours of play. The second place winner, freshman business economics major Myke Van Ness, won a flat screen TV/DVD/VCR combo and third place winner Fraser Donald received a kitchenette set. The fourth place winner won the new Halo 2 video game. Fifth through ninth place finishers received DVDs.
“My girlfriend needed an iPod for Christmas so I came out to play for it,” Bergeron said. “It took longer than I expected, but I could have easily lost.”
Van Ness said he heard about the event after seeing a flier on a kiosk and knew the event was being hosted for charity.
“It’s pretty awesome. I thought I was going to drop out in a couple of hours,” he said. “But overall I had fun and that’s what I’m here for. I wanted to do it more for the title because after all, second place is the first loser.”
Boyajian, a fourth-year political science and business economics major, said the amount of money raised this year is more than triple that of previous years.
“We almost ran out of dealers, there were so many people [tonight],” Boyajian said. “There has been an unbelievable response.”
The fraternity decided a Texas Hold’em tournament would generate a good amount of money because of its growing popularity in recent years, Boyajian said. Other groups, such as Hillel and the Rec Cen, have also hosted Texas Hold’em tournaments as fundraisers.
“This has been a hot craze in the past two years,” he said. “It’s a growing sport on all TV stations. Texas Hold’em has become the hottest thing. Our president got the idea last year to turn it into an event. It’s not gambling, it’s more like a $20 donation toward charity.”
Because the number of players significantly increased from last year’s count of 55 people, the fraternity hopes the event will be a tradition for years to come, Boyajian said.
“We have done a lot more advertising, put in a lot more money and turned it into a more professional event than what it started out as last year,” he said.
Nomo Nagaoka, the technical manager of the tournament, said Phi Sigma Kappa members had to start turning people away only an hour after the event started.
Matt Wright, a junior history major, said he decided to come to the tournament after seeing fliers on campus.
“I figured if I lose my money it’s going to a good purpose.” Wright said.