Poker's Popularity Surging

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The very mention of poker evokes images of middle-aged men, cigars, and five-card stud. Not anymore. Today, Texas Hold 'Em is the poker game of choice, and more and more people are playing it, in casinos, in tournaments, and at home.

Susan McGinnis reports in the second of a two-part series on The Early Show that poker's popularity is surging.

"I think the fact that it isn't the smoky halls, it isn't the VFW clubs or...a lot of the smoky casinos, it really does allow for people to enjoy the game," says Nick Hart, a poker game host.

Every couple of months, Hart hosts a poker tournament at his home in an Ohio suburb. McGinnis watched as Nick had a full house to play one game: Texas Hold 'Em.

"Two years ago, I'd have maybe three or four guys and we'd be searching for a game to play, just to kind of keep it alive, exciting for a couple of hours, and now, essentially I can turn guys away," says Hart.

Scenes like that are playing out across the country, as poker seems to be going mainstream spurred on, many say, by television shows like Bravo's "Celebrity Poker Showdown," "The World Poker Tour" on The Travel Channel, and ESPN's "World Series Of Poker."

They have made the game of Texas Hold 'Em fun to watch and easy to follow.

At Trump's Taj Mahal Casino in Atlantic City, the Texas Hold 'Em games are fast and furious. But for a novice, it's not that easy to explain. Suffice it to say, there are terms like "blinds," "flops" and "rivers. And of course, betting, "calling" and winning.

The players at Nick's game love it.

"It's always a friendly game, no matter how much you lose or how much you win," says player Leila Neese.

But winning is nice -- and these superstitious players will try anything to help their game.

"Hopefully, hides my eyes, hides, you know, the fact that maybe I'm doing something wrong," says Eric Mallory, wearing sunglasses upside down.

Nick himself has a "lucky poker shirt."

And then of course, there is a pot to win.

With poker games like Nick's on the rise, retailers are responding, stocking more poker products. Two years ago, Restoration Hardware didn't carry any poker-related products. Today, everything from chips to cards to electronic card shufflers are getting more shelf space in the stores, just in time for Christmas.

"Just in the last year, the category has exploded for us," says David Glassman, of Restoration Hardware.

Daryl Mattson, the District Market Manager for Borders Books in Manhattan adds, "W've got a very deep selection at borders of poker books."

At Borders stores in Manhattan, the big sellers are "how to" books, and books by poker pros.

"They're not books you would have expected to see in a bookstore 12 months ago," says Marc Lipiner, a poker player.

Sears has also added poker products to meet customer demand.

Veronica Keenan, a manager at Sears notes, "They're eager for new, trendy merchandise. And they want to be hip and happening."

Back in Ohio, after five hours of play, a winner is declared: Jason Jeffries - who started playing a year ago.

"It's not about the money, it's about having fun," says Jeffries.

Nick, the host, wasn't in the money that night, but he still had a good time. "It was great, awesome, everything, everything I could have imagined and more," he says.
  • William Vitka

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