The Ryerson Poker Club saw cash flying around the green felt-draped tables of Oakham House’s Thomas Lounge Friday, when 23 members played their final tournament of the semester. The prize: $100 to the last person standing. The buy-in was $10, with unlimited re-buys for the first two-and-a-half hours of the competition.
Even though poker is a form of gambling, it isn’t totally random. Poker club president John Lescano, a third-year computer science student, calls it “a skill game with incomplete information.”
“There’s aspects of chance and luck when you’re drawing to your hand once you’re all in. But once you realize that poker is not played in one hand but instead in millions of hands, that’s when you can truly see the skill involved in it,” Lescano said.
“I probably spent two years practicing my game before I thought I was good enough to play with other players.”
Lescano is in his third year with the poker club. During his tenure, he’s overseen the club’s partnered tournament with the Filipino Canadian Association of Ryerson, held a separate tournament that raised $200 for Autism Speaks Canada and created yet another tournament which earned $400 for a beekeeping initiative in Western Kenya.
The causes technically keep the gambling legal. Under the Gaming Control Act of Ontario, organisations without salaried employees that give to charitable organisations are exempt from the typical restrictions placed on casinos and other institutions of that ilk.
He thumbed at his ever-mounting chip stack for a moment before calling the blind. In the years leading up to his involvement in the poker club, Lescano watched “endless videos” and kept a close eye on the professional poker scene.
“I’m nowhere near where I want to be, but I’m confident I can achieve more,” he said.
The tournament saw 23 competitors, mostly regulars, but a few rookies showed up to try.”The comradery was the best part of the tournament for me,” said Cicero Paul, a first-time player. “Everybody congratulates you when you get a good hand. There’s no hard feelings, it’s just a game.”
Hours passed and blinds increased. A wall mounted projector shone a timer that broke the game into 20-minute intervals, each round demanding larger and larger bets.
Lescano made the final three in the tournament, but lost to Dannie Xie at 11 p.m., taking the victor’s spoils after a five-hour grind.
By Ben Cohen