Cashing In On The Poker Boom

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Poker has always been kind of sexy, slightly roguish, and unquestionably cool. But never has poker been so hot.

With tours and tournaments, celebrities and TV, poker is not just a game these days ? it's the game! Correspondent Bill Whitaker reports.
"Everybody knows that poker is the new, hot, hip happening thing. I believe that poker is to games what jazz is to music. It's the great American card game," says Steve Lipscomb.

Lipscomb helped ignite the boom with the World Poker Tour -- televised, roving, high-stakes games, like one tournament in Commerce, California last year, where 382 players anted up $10,000 each in hopes of winning $1.4-million jackpot.

His show became a hit as soon as it hit cable's "Travel Channel" two years ago. So is this the new reality TV?

"We have created a new genre of reality TV, undoubtedly," says Lipscomb.

A little camera allows viewers at home to see what the players can't -- each opponent's cards.

"It's the anticipation of somebody about ready to fall off the cliff or go over the waterfall, where you're going, 'Don't do it,'" says Lipscomb.

Poker is a cultural phenomenon. Any given night in almost any neighborhood in America, you're certain to find friendly games of poker.

In California, poker rooms, legal since the '80s, now are bulging -- some players putting down a few dollars, others a few thousand.

There are shelves full of poker books, and a profusion of poker on the Internet -- where you can find hundreds of thousands of players every night.

"The name of the game is absolutely no limit Texas Hold 'Em," says Lipscomb. "This is the top fuel drag racing of poker."

In no limit Hold 'Em, each player gets two cards face down to use with five community cards to make the best poker hand. A player can risk all of his or her chips on a single hand.

So what's the big appeal? Ask Phil Gordon. He cashed out of the dot-com boom to cash in on the Poker boom. Now he's a poker pro.

"Well the appeal of poker is pretty simple," says Gordon. "You can match wits with the best players in the world and at any particular day, you can beat them, like a drum."

Want proof? Look no further than Chris Moneymaker. He learned to play poker on the Internet, parlayed a $40 online ante into a seat at the World Series of Poker two years ago, and walked away with the $2.5-million jackpot.

"That's the story that was probably the best for all of poker, was the Moneymaker story," says Doug Dalton, poker director at the posh Bellagio casino in Las Vegas.

"I think a lot of people can see that it's a kind of game where they can potentially win a lot of money," says Dalton. "When a person sits down and plays, it's only their skill against their opponents."
  • Rebecca Leung

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