By richard strohmenger
State gambling law may interfere with a poker tournament this weekend since monetary prizes cannot be directly awarded to the winners.
The students who place highest in the second Annual Wharton Gaming Club's Graduate/Undergraduate Poker Challenge this Saturday afternoon in Huntsman Hall will have to earn their prize in a separate skills competition.
Due to restrictions stemming from Pennsylvania state law, any group on campus is technically forbidden to hold a poker tournament.
In response, the Gaming Club's Challenge -- which is sponsored by the Susquehanna Group -- has added a skills competition at the end of the poker games in which prizes will be distributed.
"Since the cash prize cannot be directly based on the poker, there will be some kind of skills game at the end to determine who will win the prizes," Wharton Gaming Club co-President Tajar Varghese said.
Members of the Gaming Club have been contemplating either a trivia game or some sort of bean-bag toss to determine the winners.
The Associate Director of Risk Management and Insurance at Penn Ron Jasner said that a poker "tournament would presume that something is being awarded for winning at poker. That would be gambling which is not lawful and therefore not permitted by the University."
Although he said that "games of chance were not permitted," Jasner offered that "awards for skill might be permissible."
In order to move forward with their tournament, the group decided to add this skills challenge since poker is not deemed a game of skill. Last year, the Gaming Club put on the same event without any problems.
"There were no problems last year, we had very set rules," said Gaming Club member Anik Mukheja, who is a second-year Wharton MBA student. "We are trying to do this in good fun."
This change to the club's poker tournament comes on the heels of a November decision by the University to shut down a charity poker tournament sponsored by the Phi Kappa Sigma fraternity.
However, many do not agree with the policies of the University.
"I think that poker is a game of skill," Penn Poker Club President Dan Kline said. "In many states, they allow poker and not blackjack."
Despite this, the Wharton junior thinks the University is getting better at dealing with the matter.
"The University is definitely softening their hard-line position they took earlier in the year," Kline said.
"It's been a very educational experience dealing with management and the obscure legal hoops we have to go through," said Varghese, an MBA student.