Just a short time ago, Carson Owlett ’17 was a casual poker player who occasionally played online. This Sunday, April 19, the computer science major from Wellsboro, Penn., will lead his eight teammates into a battle for the title of best collegiate poker team in the United States.
It was a quick rise to the top for this Connecticut College club that is so new it doesn’t even have “official club status” yet. The nine players – Owlett and his fellow sophomores Ashley Giordano, Roberto Gochicoa, Deion Jordan, Sean Lee, Will Stoddard and Sam Turco, plus senior Mark Ferreira and first-year Karl Johnson – take on the Florida State Seminoles Sunday at 5:05 p.m. You can watch the competition online by clicking on the broadcast link at collegepokertour.com.
It will be a challenging match-up.
“What’s really amazing is we’re such a new club, with only nine players, and the team we’re going up against has 70 players to draw from. We’re very much the underdogs going into this competition,” said Gochicoa, a math major from Southfield, Mich.
But the “underdogs” have beaten Florida State University before. In fact, in the very first match of the eight-week season, Connecticut College prevailed over Florida State, 332-195.
The teams play a game online called “No Limit Texas Hold ’Em.” The players control the online play through their computers and are represented onscreen by an avatar of their choosing. There is no gambling in this intercollegiate poker competition — instead, teams play for points and the opportunity to win the title of national champions.
“There is a lot of strategy involved in the game and that is why I love it,” said Owlett. “You’re playing your own hand, but you’re also playing to protect your fellow teammates and keep them in the game as long as possible. There is also a lot of chance involved, but it’s strategic play that gets wins.
The Connecticut College group meets weekly on campus to play poker and to discuss strategy. Win or lose this Sunday, the group is working on drafting a constitution as a major step toward becoming an official club at Connecticut College. Next year, they hope to recruit more players and continue to be a force on the national scene.
The College Poker Tour, launched in March of 2014, is the first official Intercollegiate Poker League created and operated specifically for U.S. college students, with both team and individual competition and champions. The College Poker Tour is governed by the Intercollegiate Poker Association and its board of directors.