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Phenom Poker Player Eyeing the Professional Ranks

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Calvo will spend the next 52 days in Las Vegas playing in some of the many tournaments of the 2006 World Series of Poker. His goal is to be the youngest player ever to win an event at the creme de la creme of poker tournaments, which runs from today to Aug. 10.

And Calvo thinks he has a good shot. In the two years he's been playing poker, at first in games with friends, then online - he's raked in $60,000. He'll use his accumulated winnings to enter in some of the tournaments.

Calvo plans to come into the World Series with a few aces up his sleeve and, hopefully, a good number in his hands.

"Anybody can learn how to play poker, and its easier now to get better very quickly," Calvo said. "But to be very good, you have to take it to the next level.

"You have to be fearless."

Calvo lives with five friends in a house close to campus that can be best described as the quintessential college bachelor pad. There's a 62-inch television in the living room (that's Calvo's) surrounded by video game consoles. A personal keg (that's Calvo's also) is in the corner and posters of women and beer are on the walls.

That new white Mercedes Benz SLK 300 in the backyard? Yeah, that's Calvo's too. And it's all thanks to his specialty: no-limit Texas hold 'em.

He used to play poker with his housemates, the "brew crew," as they call themselves. Yeah, not so much anymore. They know better than to get into a serious game with Calvo.

"It's not all about the money," Calvo said while fidgeting with poker chips at his living room table. "I'd rather play poker than have an office job where I can make twice as much."

Calvo, who was born in Boston but grew up near Columbia, hadn't played poker at all until he came to college. As an 18-year-old freshman, he started playing in small games, $5 buy-ins. He then progressed into larger games around campus. Buy-ins became larger, $10 or $20.

Then came Internet poker. He started playing online after classes and got to the point where he could handle eight or 10 tables at once on a site.

His biggest "run" online, when he won the most consecutive games, netted Calvo close to $18,000 just over two days.

"It was just always easy for me to sit there and tell when to make certain moves," said Calvo. "I always really liked the psychological aspects of the game."

Over time, Calvo developed the ability to read other players and portray the sense that he dominates the other players, controlling their moods or forcing them to make certain bets they wouldn't normally make under different circumstances.

Calvo said there isn't a key to being a good poker player. He said he's laid back though and doesn't stress out during games but plays aggressively. The big difference between good and great players, Calvo said, is the ability to win when you don't have a good card.

He's also developed quite an extensive vocabulary of poker lingo.

"You know, I know exactly what to do when there's $2,000 on the flop and if one player has aces and the other has pocket kings," he said.

Poker has enjoyed a rise in popularity and exposure, especially among younger players over the years. Despite being an easy game to get together with friends to play, Calvo said, televised poker games on ESPN (which will also air the World Series of Poker) and networks like Bravo and the Travel Channel have showcased the game to a wider audience.

While he called poker his "job," Calvo said he plans to finish his education at McDaniel, where he's majoring in communications and minoring in business and film and video studies.

After graduation, he plans to take a year off and play poker, test the waters professionally to see what he can accomplish and then go from there.

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