The scene is set. It’s just past 2 A.M. on a school night. The windows are closed and the sun has long been gone, but the glow from the computer screen has never been more evident on his face than this moment. As the sweat crawls slowly down his forehead, his hands simultaneously creep up on either side of his face, the palms perching under his chin as the fingers extend to cover his eyes. His right elbow slips for a quick second on page 238 of his Econ book, but he recovers immediately and sits like a statue as he waits for the river. One more card. He needs a heart. He holds a deep breath in his throat before opening his eyes. 8 of spades. The $1200 Texas Hold ‘Em pot slides over to the man in the cowboy hat and the sunglasses at the corner of the table. A pop up window jumps onto the screen, but he already knows what it says as his head collapses into his Econ book. “You do not have enough cash to buy back in. You have 0 dollars.”

What may have been more of a fictional story some 5 years ago is quickly becoming a reality in more than half of every male college students lives today, as 50.4% of male college students gamble on cards at least once a month*. It’s never been more evident that online gambling sights are beginning to cater to their biggest audience today. Up and coming gambling poker sites such as absolutepoker.com not only offer easy ways to deposit and transfer money for college students who have easy access to credit cards and ample time to waste, but also are now giving away scholarships and tuition payments for winners of select tournament pools.

With 2.9 million Americans between the ages of 14 and 22 gambling on cards at least once a week*, it’s no wonder that the estimated revenue for Internet gambling in 2005 was $12 billion, up almost $9 billion from the $3.1 billion that was raked in from Internet gambling only 4 years earlier*. The numbers will only continue to skyrocket, and the reality of the situation is that most college students will end up in a similar situation to the one described in the opening paragraph. However, there are smart tactics that college students must learn to use while gambling that will not only help win some money in the short run, but will also help them manage their money successfully in the future.

One of the most important things to realize is that as much as gambling is televised and glorified today, it is dangerous and there is little help provided for those in trouble. A common misconception is that in order to win big, you have to bet big. In the long run, if you bet big on poker, blackjack, sports, etc, you will lose. This is why these establishments and websites exist, because the odds are in their favor. Even if you get lucky and win once or twice, they know you’ll be back, and they’ll get the best of you in the end. The best advice you will ever receive on Internet gambling is to set self-limits for your gambling habits before they get out of control. If you are a poker player, make a weekly deposit limit for yourself, $50 for example (on some Internet gambling sites such as partypoker.com, there is a feature which allows you to actually set a weekly deposit limit online). This way, if you lose, you will have some time to relax and think about how you can manage the money better next time, and if you win, you will have a more conscious attitude of how to make the money you have earned prosper, as opposed to the attitude that the gambling sites want you to have: “well, if I lose this, it’s no big deal, I can just cash out some more.”

For most college students, Internet gambling is seemingly a small risk, big rush, fun opportunity to pass the time between classes. But without a weekly deposit limit, the small risks can too often get out of control. By setting a weekly limit, you’ll not only be holding a better hand than others on the Internet sites that you’ll be playing against, but you’ll also have an ace up your sleeve when dealing with money handling issues in the future. Trust me from personal experience. I’m all in on this one. It’s up to you to make the call.

* All statistics courtesy of The Annenberg Public Policy Center’s 2005 National Annenberg Risk Survey of Youth; Christiansen Capital Advisors, LLC