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Draw of the desert (cont.)

Posted: Monday May 23, 2005 4:43PM; Updated: Wednesday May 25, 2005 11:30AM
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By John Walters, SI.com

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Still, Las Vegas instills little fear or loathing among the MTV set, who have made it the most popular spring break destination without beach access. And why not? The NBC television show Las Vegas depicts a vibrant city with hot young stars such as Nikki Cox, Molly Sims and Josh Duhamel. Before Las Vegas there was MTV's Real World: Las Vegas, which played out like a sex-and-booze bacchanalia. Mention the name "Trishelle" to any college-aged male and, with a Pavlovian preoccupation, he will utter the word "slut."

Finally, more than a few college students have put Bringing Down the House on their reading list. Ben Mezrich's 2002 book, which focuses on blackjack, not poker, nevertheless tells the story of a group of MIT students who cashed in on their card smarts. In the mid-'90s the MIT Blackjack Team, as they called themselves, concocted an intricate (yet totally legal) method of counting cards. They won hundreds of thousands of dollars (and lived even better than the MTV Real World gang) before casinos got wise to them and banned them.


Now that ain't workin', that's the way you do it,
Lemme tell ya them guys ain't dumb,
Maybe get a blister on your little finger,
Maybe get a blister on your thumb

Easy money. That's part of the lure, sure.

"I feel really bad when I see some kid waking up at 7 a.m. to mow the golf course for $7 an hour," says Duke student Jason Strasser, who did not go to Las Vegas for spring break -- instead he went to Vienna, Austria, to compete in a European Poker Tour event with a $2,800 buy-in. "It's such a sucker deal."

Andy McClure, who forfeited his academic scholarship at the University of Alabama in the midst of his sophomore year in order to play poker fulltime, agrees. "Every hour I spend in class," says McClure, who hada perfect score on the math section of the SAT, "is $70 I'm not making playing poker."

"I'll be there at the World Series of Poker this year," promises Grayson, a sophomore at the University of Florida who earns $2,500 per month playing online. "Ideally, when I graduate I'd like to move out to Vegas and make a living at it."

In 1987, the stock market crashed.

In 2000, the dotcom bubble burst.

As for poker? "Poker is a self-leveling endeavor," says Poker for Dummies author Lou Krieger. "Nobody fires you, but nobody promotes you, either. Everyone is an independent contractor. And it's a zero-sum game. If someone is making money, then someone else is losing money."