In California, the age limit in most casinos is 21. Morongo Casino, located near Palm Springs, is the only casino I know of that allows people as young as 18 to gamble. I grew up watching my father play poker, so recently, when I turned 18, the first thing I did was go to Morongo. Unfortunately, I do not live near Morongo, so after that I focused my attention on an online poker site: Full Tilt Poker, where it is legal to play at 18 and in the United States.
Signing up for Full Tilt Poker was easy and affordable – it's free and only took five minutes or so. I picked a user name and gave them the last four digits of my social security number, and voilà, I was in. I put $25 in my account via electronic check, which was approved within minutes, and I was ready to play. I had thought signing up would be a hassle, but it was surprisingly easy.
A lot of my friends questioned my playing and told me how easy it would be to lose money. Losing a lot of money would be especially harmful for a college student. But it's not expensive if you don't want it to be. First of all, they have plenty of tournaments for only a dollar. I usually play a tournament that cost only three dollars. There are 90 players in a tournament, and the top nine get paid. First place is $72. Plus, if you knock someone out, you get 50 cents. The tournament doesn't last long, maybe an hour or two. It's perfect for young people, too, who don't have much experience playing. Of course,, there are tournaments with bigger prizes, but they're more expensive. There are also cash games.
As I said, there are bigger tournaments. My father, lawyer by day, aspiring professional poker player by night, actually won a trip to Cyprus playing one of those bigger tournaments via Full Tilt. In Cyprus, he played in the World Poker Tour ($10,000 buy-in).
It's also cool to play poker with people around the world. At Morongo, you generally play with people from the area. Online, I've played with people from Chile, Columbia, Australia, Germany, France, Canada, United Kingdom, Mexico, Romania, and of course, United States.
Also, you don't have to leave your house to play. You don't have to drive to the nearest casino (for me, it's an hour and a half and generally requires staying the night in the area). You can play while watching the big football game, cooking, or wearing your pajamas.
Don't get me wrong – I love Morongo, I love going to the casino. But it's simply impossible for me to play there all the time, while I can play online whenever I want. It's a ton of fun and if you're good at it, it could be a nice source of income. Now, if only I could play blackjack for real money online…