An Obsession That Pays Off

By: Andrea Kellock

With nearly $50 to his name, Scott Trama, a student at Bloomsburg University, knew he needed some cash, and fast. So, after taking the advise of his twin brother, Trama cautiously put $25 down on a poker website, www.poker.com, and surprisingly won $100 before cashing out. “I was just trying to play it safe and have a little fun,” said Trama. For the rest of that semester Trama casually continued to compete, not taking too many big risks, but still enjoying the game and the occasional benefits of having some extra cash. Little did he know that, by the end of his sophomore year, what started as a harmless game would evolve into one of Trama’s favorite obsession, as well as his ultimate distraction. “ I started playing every couple days, whenever I could find the time, but it started getting bad when I would skip classes. I’d have like three classes back to back and I’d skip the first one, than I would be in the middle of a game, so I’d skip the second one, than I’d be down $10 and I’d want to win it back, so I’d skip the third,” confessed Trama.

Online gambling is a fad that continues to rise in popularity more and more every year, especially among college males. A recent study, on www.OGpaper.com, conducted by the University of Pennsylvania, found that online gambling among male college students has risen 12% in only two years. Dr. Jeffrey L. Derevensky of McGill University in Montreal, who has studied youth problem gambling, said, “college life provides plenty of free time and newfound independence, allowing for the perfect opportunity to sit down and play as much as you want.” Many colleges have seen these young addicts drop out of school and end up stealing in order to continue gambling, while other students break laws and even commit suicide after falling so deep in debt. Even making online gambling technically illegal in the United States has not prevented this epidemic from stopping because all the websites are run by different countries, mostly in Europe, and the United States have no control of them.

A New York Times article from May 2010, “The Hold-‘Em Holdup,” tells the story about Lehigh University student, Greg Hogan, a smart, talented young man who wanted to take on the world and work on Wall Street someday. After his harmless hobby of online poker turned into a dangerous addiction, and ended up robbing a bank to pay off his outrageous debt. Hogan was arrested and it is clear to see that his life will never be the same. In the article, Hogan’s father stated, ”before, Greg’s options were unlimited and they are limited.” College campuses are beginning to see the sincerity of this problem and are establishing programs to help prevent issues like Greg Hogan’s from occurring again. In an article on www.Boston.com it states that The University of Massachusetts has trained resident advisers to look out for students who reside in their dorm rooms and at freshman orientation, officials discuss the dangers of alcohol, drugs, and gambling. The University of Central Florida is also making headway by offering clinics on campus for both substance abuse and gambling addiction. “A lot of the schools are starting to realize they need to have policies around it like alcohol and drugs,” said Margot Cahoon, a council spokeswoman from The Massachusetts Council on Gambling.

Trama is now 21 and a senior at Bloomsburg. Online poker has become a big part of his life since that day in his dorm room, and over the past three years his skills have vastly improved.  He plays anytime he can, while juggling classes and cross country practice, “ I sort of look at it as a part-time job since I don’t have time to get a real one.” Trama also adds,  “I don’t take too many big risks, I really do try to make some extra money and not bet it all away.” Being so fixated with online poker does not always benefit his athletics, “the athletes lifestyle and the poker players lifestyle are completely different,” said Trama, but he tries to find that happy medium between getting a good night sleep for the big race, and staying up all night trying to break even.

Even though most of his roommates don’t gamble, Trama’s brother and friends back home enjoy the adrenaline rush of putting down a royal flush as much as he does, “Over the summer a group of us will either sit around on our computers and play, or now even venture off to the casino’s,” said Trama, “which is an entirely different game.” Trama admits to playing against his twin once in a while, but they don’t bet large amounts of money, “ It’s weird playing against him because we both have the same style and cannot hide anything from each other. Mainly we try to pick on other people at the table,” laughed Trama. Besides classes and sports, poker even has an effect on his social life. Trama said, “sometimes its all you want to do, I’ll be in a tournament that lasts like eight hours, so I just don’t go out that night with my friends.” Auston Martzel, Trama’s long time roommate and best friend, has seen Trama’s gambling career from the beginning, “I totally support Scott and his gambling. I think its cool he can make that kind of money by playing a game, I know I can’t. It’s just funny when he looses his temper and starts throwing things, but he always returns to his computer ready to play again.”

One night, Trama had $500 in his bank account and decided to bet $200 on one of his usual poker websites, but he lost it all within five minutes. Fuming mad, Trama bet his last $300, confident that he could turn this all around, but Trama ended up losing all that too. That was when he decided to make the riskiest move of his gambling career, he bet $200 that he didn’t have. “I deposited the $200 on an e-check, which usually takes like three days to reach my bank account. So I knew I had to make at least $200 within the next couple days or that check would bounce,” said Trama. In the end Trama was able to run up that $200 he didn’t have into $1,300, and the e-checked never bounced. “It was intense,” said Trama.

When it comes to online poker, Trama is confident that he is not addicted, “I defiantly spend too much time doing it while I’m at school, but I am smart about it,” said Trama. Both his parents and his girlfriend are not fans of Trama’s habit of betting his money on a card game. They see poker as a game of luck and not skill, so they fear that he will loose all his money one day. “Over the summer I would play up to 12 hours a day. It messed up my sleeping habits,” said Trama, “but I truly love to play poker, even without the money, I just love to play the game.”

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