Teenage Poker Players Go 'All In' Online

Teens too young to enter casinos make thousands playing poker on the Internet.

August 23, 2010, 4:13 PM

Aug. 24, 2010— -- What happens in Vegas often happens at the poker table, but many of the winners raking in huge jackpots aren't even old enough to enter a casino.

From Texas Hold 'Em to Five-Card Stud, online poker games have allowed teenagers to become expert card players long before they turn 21, when it's legal for them to play in the real Sin City.

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Last year's World Series of Poker champion, Joe Cada, is only 22. As the youngest player to have ever won the WSOP, he now gets his own security escort and private parties when he comes to Las Vegas.

He attributed the internet, where he could play more than 2,000 hands of poker a day, to his huge success.

There's a whole new generation of teens right behind him who have had the same revelation: you can get good -- very good -- at poker starting at a very young age without ever leaving your house.

A recent national study from the Institute for Research on Gambling Disorders estimated over 70 percent of Americans, ages 14 to 19, have gambled in the past year. Researchers at University of California-Berkeley also found in a separate study that 19.6 percent of young men gamble online regularly.

For Cada, playing poker is his life. It became his passion once he started playing online with a group of friends and realized he was good at it.

"I was always the quieter type. I didn't really go out much and I just stayed in and played cards," he said.

Practice is what made Cada so perfect at playing poker, and after losing some money at first, he eventually started to pull in the big bucks -- as a teenager.

"One day I just kept winning and I won $4,000 ... I remember I went to school and told my friend Mike I was going to get to $10,000 by the end of the week," Cada said. "I went home, kept winning, next thing I know I got up to $15-$20,000 by the end of the week."

Blaine Brount is not far behind him.

A college student at the University of Illinois, the 19-year-old spent his summer teaching drum lessons at the high school he used to attend in Gurnee, Ill. and playing online poker. But Brount doesn't just play for the bragging rights. To him, it's a second job.

Blaine Brount Plays Poker To Make a Living

"I'm not gambling to see what's going to happen, I'm trying to make a profit," he explained. "I pay my rent, I pay my bills by playing online poker ... if you're smart about it and manage your money well, it absolutely can be a real job."

His mother Mary not only supports her son's online gambling, she gave him a few hundred dollars to get him started.

"I'm proud of him. It's not something everyone can do," she said. "I think it's an honest living. He's working hard at it. He also did tell me once that this is something he's looking at for 8-10 years."

Brount said his mother trusted him from the beginning and believed that he could win, even when he lost the first $100 she gave him.

"She said 'try again' and helped me put more money online, and eventually I paid her back for that," Brount said. "I just worked harder ... I learned more about managing the money -- and that was when I was 18."

That's the legal age for gambling with Internet companies headquartered outside the U.S. Congress is considering a bill to regulate the online gambling industry so that proceeds can be taxed and companies can be established in the U.S.

Diligently plugging away at his computer, Brount can win $900 in one hour and then lose $350 the next. He said it's about sticking with it and persistence pays off ten-fold. So far he's won over $15,000 dollars.

Brount also puts to rest the myth that money can be made on one big final hand, or that a player has a key "tell" that reveals he's bluffing.

"There are elements of chance in poker, absolutely. That's why I have losing days. That's why the greatest players in the world have losing days," he explained.

The best thing is the freedom of being on your own schedule.

"If I didn't have online poker, I'd probably have to get a 'proper' summer job ... I wouldn't be able to teach the drumline, which is something I really love and it's really important to me," he said.

Brount believes that he would be a lot more uncertain about the future if he didn't have his online poker playing skills to fall back on. He started off as an engineering major and found it wasn't a good fit for him.

"I'm looking at some degrees [now] where I'm not going to be making as much money," he said. "[But] I know that I can supplement my income by playing poker or I can take it on as a full career."

While Brount admits he's not sure if he will play the same card game of chance for decades to come, but for now, he's thinking big -- big winnings, that is.

"It's not like I'm going to win $5 million in a year and then I can stop ... If I win $1 million tomorrow, I'm not going to stop playing," he said. "I'm going to push myself to higher stakes to play against better players and try to win more money."

ABC News' Lauren Effron contributed to this report.

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