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Wharton: Poker craze: Utahns say, 'Deal me in' (Salt Lake Tribune)

My father's relatives and friends once gathered in a tiny cabin at Camp Strawberry before the opening of the fishing season to play all sorts of strange poker games. Cigar smoke filled the room that was lit by a bare light bulb. The language could get a bit coarse, especially when the dealer picked some strange hybrid. I can remember that a game called "no peeky baseball"? elicited groans from the poker purists. 

While my brother and cousins took up the game with gusto, it never much interested me. I thought a full house meant a family party and a straight flush was when the toilet worked. Still, a sudden increase in poker fueled by the Internet and televised poker tournaments is hard to ignore. Suddenly, everyone I know, from nephews to sons to friends, wants to play poker. A new Utah business, Cards, Chips and More: Your Texas Holdem Headquarters, opened in January in Salt Lake City. It sells felt card tables, poker sets, chips, poker T-shirts (slogan: "I'm not lucky. I'm good?), card shufflers, card guards and instructional books and DVDs, with titles such as ?Poker for Dummies? and ?Play Poker with the Pros.? 

Chris Shilts, who owns the store, said television has fueled interest in the old card game. Six channels broadcast at least one poker show a week. ?I love the game,? he said. ?I don't know why. There is a percentage of luck involved. And, in my opinion, there is a much larger percentage of skill involved. You can be lucky or skillful.? As I discovered so many years ago at Camp Strawberry, there is the social aspect. ?I love hanging out with people,? said Shilts. ?There can be male or female at a table and there is always a little bantering back and forth. It is a great way to get out and socialize. To me, it is more than gambling and making money, even though I can do that.? 

While playing cards for fun in Utah is not illegal, gambling itself does break the law. Of course, that doesn't stop hundreds of recreational players from competing in penny.


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