Model Home Turned Full House

A Look Into Parker Poker Playing


Photo credit: The Parker Weekly

Model Home Turned Full House – A Look into Parker Poker Playing

Untended and eye-catching because of its stark contrast to the gray plastic chair it rests on, is a small leather backpack. The backpack’s matte black leather exterior appears well taken care of, however the real eye catching detail is Gucci’s iconic red and green stripe that adorns the front. Obviously not large enough to carry any sort of computer, science textbook, or math notebook, the student unzips the bag to reveal poker chips. He refers to it as his “poker bag” a handful of times. Poured in with no particular organization is an assortment of colored poker chips, masked by a designer backpack and not so seamlessly blending into the fourth floor hallways. Poker is Parker’s current lunchtime, break, after school, and at home activity, but students of the school have been participating for years.

In 2004, Ben Hubbard covered Parker students and their counterparts at other Chicago private schools participating in a poker night. His Chicago Reader article, titled “Baby Sharks,” begins, “On a Saturday afternoon in early April, 47 boys and one girl, most of whom attend the elite Francis Parker High School, filed into the basement of a classmate’s Old Town home.” 

Hubbard went on to explain parental restrictions, or lack thereof. At one point in his article he wrote about a student anonymously, noting his mother requested his name not be used. 

The article makes out parental involvement to be very encouraging: “Upstairs the host’s parents were heating up pizzas. Like many Parker parents, they not only allow but encourage the games.” 2004 happens to be the year many current juniors and seniors at Parker were born, and around 18 years later, the game lives on.

“I play poker probably everyday, well actually, maybe that’s not true, maybe every other day,” self-proclaimed “King of Poker” anonymous junior boy #1 said. “What do I get out of poker? Winning,” he said. Suddenly his classmate sitting next to him jumped in. “You get satisfaction, adrenaline, and winning,” anonymous junior boy #2 said. “Also he’s [anonymous boy 1] not the king of poker. He got dethroned yesterday, by me.” The boys continue to dispute the winnings of last night’s game, never fully reaching a definite conclusion through their long-lasting back and forth. 

The game the previous night took place on an online poker website. Rather than watching a show before bed or reading a book, 10 junior boys logged on to an online poker game. A green background and animated cards adorn each boy’s screen. The next day, mid morning and during class, they are still discussing the details and most likely ready to play again by lunch. 

“Nowadays I’m playing more online poker than in real life poker. So, in ‘real life poker’ I play every other week. Online I probably play twice a week. It brings me enjoyment,” anonymous junior boy #3 said.

Although many games are played at home and/or virtually, many can be found within the walls of the school. “I see people play poker often,” anonymous freshman boy #1 said. “The other day, I walked out of my basketball practice at 6:30 p.m. and all the boys were sitting in the sixth grade hallway playing poker literally at 6:30 p.m. in the school. I don’t know why they were still there. And I don’t know why they were playing poker. The fourth floor tables are also a hit.” 

Upper School Dean of Student Life Joe Bruno said the administration is aware that poker is played on campus. Money bets are a different issue. “While I understand it to be simply a game at its core,” Bruno said, “when we add the exchange of money to the game is where it is strictly prohibited and against school policy. Any gambling on campus will not be tolerated.”

“The freshmen don’t really play,” anonymous freshman boy #1 said. “Well, I would play if I knew how to play. I just don’t know how to.” The majority of Parker poker players are upperclassmen boys. 

“I’ve never participated in a game of poker,” anonymous sophomore girl #1 said. “I haven’t really been in a situation where I could play poker. I’ve never really seen a girl playing poker at school. It’s usually just a really big group of boys”. 

Some girls do play. “I know one girl that’s really good at poker. She comes in and always wins,” anonymous junior boy #2 said. “She just knows how to bluff, and because she’s a girl people underestimate her ability in the game, but she really knows how to play.” 

Similar to the events described in 2004 in Hubbard’s Reader articles, students host Poker games in their basements, living rooms, and kitchens. Some students save their after school time for poker, rather than their lunch breaks. “I remember this one time they were all at my house, and we decided to participate in poker. Never ever once though have I participated in poker on a school day,” anonymous junior boy # 4 said. 

“The most exciting part about poker is when the last card on the table is flipped,” anonymous junior boy #2 said. “The people left then flip their cards to see who won, but there is a brief moment where everyone thinks they had the best hand. One time I won a pot…from one hand and I could just see everyone’s face drop.”