“The biggest, baddest, meanest poker brawl of all time.” The inaugural 2020 Fall Brawl in the collegiate poker world means strategy, stakes and serious game.
Despite travel and in-person limitations, the Mountain Lion Poker Club left it all on the field, or in this case, the table thanks to the adaptability of the collegiate poker community.
Justin Cole is an instructor in the UCCS Department of Counseling and Human Services and is also the advisor for the Poker Club. Cole helped create the Poker Club five years ago and has served as its advisor since then.
In the past, the Poker Club has traveled to states like Minnesota and Oklahoma to play in poker tournaments. Cole explained, “Because of COVID, we haven’t really had the opportunity to travel. A lot of school clubs are suspended from travelling out of state, which was really our main bread and butter.”
To overcome this, the Poker Club began practicing and participating in tournaments virtually.
“We started with the National Collegiate Poker Tour, and that was just a group of universities throughout the United States that were competing online in tournaments to win cash prizes. We had about 17 universities and only about 150 players,” Cole explained. “After that, what came about, was something called World College Poker, which has now kind of exploded into about 1,500 players. It’s a global organization.”
Before this year, poker at a collegiate level had never been done before. According to their website, World College Poker (WCP) was created to give the players of tomorrow a platform to strut their stuff and cement their name in poker history.
In December, the Poker Club competed in the first ever Fall Brawl by WCP where, according to Cole, 58 universities were represented by 1,100 college players aged 17 to 52. The poker tournament was played virtually on the PokerBROS social gaming platform.
“Julian [Elizondo] played, I played and Chris [Pagel] won a prize. He came in sixth place. That’s a huge accomplishment to come in sixth place out of 1,100 players,” Cole said.
Chris Pagel is a senior studying biomedical science. He was unavailable for interview, but according to WCP, Pagel began playing card games during family holiday gatherings.
Pagel did not begin to take the game seriously until he entered college. The 2020 Fall Brawl was his first final table experience. “There is a drastic amount of complexity to the game that you can’t master overnight,” he said in an interview with WCP. “It’s best to take the necessary steps to learn and grow as a poker player over time.”
According to senior human services major and Poker Club Vice President Julian Elizondo, “PokerBROS was a very new take because it’s kind of what poker has had to become during COVID. … It’s one of the loopholes for players to keep playing so it’s nice to have that.”
Elizondo has been a part of the Poker Club for about two years. “I think I am one of the newest players in our little community,” Elizondo said. “I learned [playing poker] from my aunt’s husband when I was a little. There’s other card, strategy games and I played all those growing up.
“One day, I was having a rough day and one of the [Poker Club] members invited me to come hang out and play because they knew I liked card games. After that, I got hooked. Justin showed me the mindset of poker that I agreed to, and the rest was history.”
Trevor Warren, junior biomedical science and history major, joined the Poker Club during his freshman year and is the current president. He has been playing poker since he was 14.
“I learned [how to play poker] from my dad. I had an older brother in high school at the time and a lot of his buddies would get together and play. I was like ‘man, that’d be really cool to learn that,’” Warren said.
As president of the Poker Club, Warren shared that COVID-19 has made playing a challenge, but he tries to help the group adapt as best they can. “We’re starting to see a good transition back into normal gameplay in person while still taking precautions. It’s very exciting.
“This past semester, we were able to have a virtual meeting with a poker professional named Brad Owen. He was able to identify some of the struggles and some of the benefits of playing poker professionally. I think that was really neat to introduce members to what’s out there.”
A few weeks ago, the Poker Club started meeting again in-person to do some poker instruction and play in a poker tournament with play money. They have also made tentative plans to travel locally.
“We have talked about taking a spring trip up to Blackhawk on March 22, going up and playing in their 10 o’clock, 12 o’clock and 7 o’clock tournaments. They do three small buy-in tournaments: $60, $80 and $60. This trip is for members 21 years and older,” Cole said.
There are 38 members of the Poker Club, but about 12 members actively participate. The club is looking for more players and would welcome any interested students into their ranks.
“We help people identify what type of player they want to be. There are people who want to be a social, recreational gamer. That’s fine. But there are some that understand that this is a profession for many people in the United States and worldwide, and you can make a living playing professional poker,” Cole said.
For more information on the Mountain Lion Poker Club, contact Justin Cole at [email protected].