Top universities setting up poker clubs

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The Global Poker Strategic Thinking Society announced today that students at several top universities are forming poker clubs in preparation for a national collegiate team poker tournament and conference next year that is designed to promote the educational benefits of poker.

The clubs are part of the GPSTS, which was organized by students at Harvard led by law school professor Charles Nesson.

At a conference in Singapore at the State of Play Conference in August, Nesson introduced the poker society as a way to tap into the enormous growth in the popularity of poker on campuses and use it as an educational tool in universities and secondary schools.

"Poker teaches many lessons that are transferable to the challenges of life, including strategic understanding of risk, resource management and self control," Nesson said. "When to hold'em, when to fold'em as the song says."

Andrew Woods, a law student, took the initiative along with Nesson to organize the Harvard chapter of the GPSTS. Harvard Law School formally approved the GPSTS as an official student organization Oct. 1, and so far, 62 Harvard Law students have joined.

Penn State, UCLA, USC, Stanford, Brown, Tufts and Boston University all are forming chapters of the GPSTS as well. Internationally, chapters are being organized at universities in Singapore, Finland and the United Kingdom.

"The level of student response to our announcement of GPSTS is overwhelming," Nesson said. "Many people agree that poker itself, besides being fun, has an academic component that can bring great benefits to learning at all levels."

The GPSTS is hoping to have at least two dozen chapters by the end of the academic year and plans to facilitate several academic panels that will explore poker as a tool for learning.

The first panel is scheduled to get together Oct. 15 and focus on life skills. Howard Lederer and Crandell Addington will be featured on that panel.

On Oct. 16, Harvard's GPSTS chapter will also talk about the World Trade Organization dispute over the legality of online poker and other forms of online gaming. Jim McManus and Mike Sexton will join a panel Nov. 10 to discuss the educational utility of poker.

The society isn't just about talking about poker, however. They do play poker as well. The first school-versus-school matchup will take place Nov. 16 between the Harvard and Yale chapters of the society the night before the Harvard-Yale football game.

On Nov. 30, USC and UCLA will have a similar match on the eve of the football game between the rivals as well.

Spring 2008 will bring a couple of major events for the GPSTS. First, the organization is planning a poker educational workshop at the Smith Leadership Academy, a charter school in Massachusetts that focuses on education for at-risk youth.

The session will focus on ways educators can use poker to teach risk assessment, asset management, math and negotiation skills to students.

The Intercollegiate Poker Face-off is also being planned for spring, during which universities from around the country will face off around the poker table to crown a collegiate team champion.

According to the GPSTS, the competition will likely take place during the NCAA Division I basketball tournament.

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