When Jeremy Tole wants to find a game of poker, he has a lot of outs.
First, he’ll look in his cell phone for acquaintances who play. He’ll also go to Facebook, the online directory for university communities, where there’s a “Kirkwood College Poker Club” group.
In all, there are between 50 to 75 people that Tole, an 18-year-old Kirkwood Community College student, can contact to get a poker game going on any given night in Iowa City.
“All but one of my guy friends play poker,” said Tole, who plays four times a week.
Tole and his buddies are far from alone in their enthusiasm for gambling.
About 2.9 million people between the ages of 14 and 22 gamble on cards on a weekly basis, according to a September 2005 survey by The Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania. The monthly gambling rate for that age group jumped 20 percent between 2004 and 2005.
The overwhelming majority, 80 percent, are male, and gambling rates are higher among youth who attend school. About 50 percent of college males gamble on cards monthly, according to the survey.
Poker and online gambling in particular have exploded in popularity in the past several years. A big reason for that, experts say, are the million-dollar poker tournaments broadcast on television and the availability of Internet gambling.
“With ESPN showing the ‘World Series (of Poker),’ you see them make $2 million, and they’re just playing cards,” said Jesse Bockelman, 22, a senior at UI.
Bockelman’s stakes are generally much smaller. When he has the money, he plays Internet poker about two hours a night.
He sticks to $2 or $3 tables, but he’s won as much as $400 and …