The Klingenstein Lounge resembled of a Las Vegas casino on Sunday. Forty-one passionate poker players of different degrees of experience showed up this year sporting sunglasses, baseball caps, iPods and sport jackets in the tradition of famous poker stars.
Students came in the hopes of winning the 10th annual Ithaca College American Marketing Association poker tournament. The players competed in the tournament for prizes that include movie tickets, Subway prize packages and a $200 gift card to Best Buy for first place.
The American Marketing association is a nationwide professional community organization funded through the business school. The organization spans beyond college students and includes members from hundreds of different companies that recruit members from AMA.
The AMA threw the tournament as a small part of many fundraising endeavors. AMA also hosts other events, including the Etiquette Dinner and the Chicken Wing Fling.
This year’s tournament had moments of equal excitement to those on an episode of “The World Series of Poker.” After tense staredowns, players folded hands based solely on guesses about the strength of another player’s cards. Entire fortunes in chips changed hands on a single card.
One such hand decided the outcome of the top three remaining players in the final table. Sophomore Michael Velasco, an economics major, put all his chips on the line to beat Marc Sapoznik, a graduate student, who held the second largest stack of chips at the time.
Velasco beat had an ace and a king in his hand. Sapoznik had an ace and a king. Fortune seemed to favor Sapoznik when the first three community cards came up as a queen, a six and a five, giving Sapoznik a pair of queens. In a dramatic reversal of fortune, though, the fourth card was a king, giving Velasco the higher pair, eliminating Saponzick and eventually coming in first place at the tournament.
Velasco said this exchange was what decided the outcome of the tournament.
“It was definitely the difference of a $20 gift card and a $200 card from Best Buy — that was what was running through my head.”
The crowd did not let the competitive spirit distract them from having fun. The tables were alive with playful banter, which could be heard over the ceaseless clinking of chips, as the players snacked on sodas and food provided by D.P. Dough, one of the major sponsors of the tournament.
Senior Juliann Bertone, an integrated marketing communications major and president of the Ithaca Chapter of AMA, said this was a more casual fundraising opportunity for the organization.
“It’s a fun, laid-back event where we just want people to come and have a good time, she said. “It’s more of a community thing for the organization. It doesn’t raise a ton of money, but it’s something that we do, and everyone has a good time.”
Senior James Macagna, a business administration and marketing major and vice president of finance for AMA, said although it is one of the association’s smaller events, it has still drawn a profitable number of people in the past.
“Anywhere from 40 to 60 people [show up],” Macagna said. “That’s kind of broad, but our smallest showing has been 20 and the largest has been 60 in the past four years I have been part of it.”