Game Day: High Stakes Poker

No buy-in necessary and minimal blinds to start, but it's winner-take-all in Berkeley and buy-backs aren't aloud.

I know it's blasphemy to associate gambling and collegiate athletics, (ask Rick Neuheisel) but for the sake of argument, and a bit of entertainment I'm going to commit said sacrilege. While money, at least directly, will not be changing hands, respect and opportunity is on the line. Neither team is getting much of the former, while the latter is up for grabs. Who wants it? Who deserves it? And who's willing to risk the most to get it?

Let's deal the cards.

Our table consists of California Head Coach Jeff Tedford, Oregon head man Mike Bellotti, Defensive Coordinators Bob Gregory and Nick Aliotti, and similarly Offensive Coordinators Frank Cignetti and Chip Kelly. Oregon and Cal Berkeley Athletic Directors Pat Kilkenny and Sandy Barbour will accompany the coaches, and joining via the internet will be an anonymous fan from each institution. Both mascots were originally extended invitations, however an inability to handle the cards led to a disqualification prior to the game.

Things get off to a fast start as Oregon's Nick Aliotti is eliminated in the first hand. After a check-raise by Tedford, Nick's tendency to overcomplicate things leads to a re-raise and subsequent bluff. Tedford, whose years working with Aliotti familiarized him with his ways, calls his raise and forces an all-in. Result; Nick goes home amidst a whirlwind of controversy.

Chip Kelly, used to doing things without help from his defensive coordinator, immediately makes an unorthodox play for chips, duping his counterpart Cignetti out of half of his stack. Cignetti, feeling a bit overmatched, concedes the remainder of his chips to his superior, leaving Tedford with a monster pile and in a position of power.

Sensing a threat by his previous understudy, Coach Bellotti attempts to schmooze Sandy Barbour out of a small portion of her belongings with a blank check from Phil Knight. As expected, Barbour scoffs at the offer, citing various moral and ethical hurdles, yet Tedford, leaping wholeheartedly over the aforementioned hurdles, snatches the check in an effort to secure funding for his long-awaited facility upgrades. Anonymous Cal Fan then withdraws from the game, grabs a tattered army issue backpack, braids his hair and heads for the trees currently parked on the property slated for Tedford's facility upgrades. Barbour, taken aback by the emotional tsunami she just triggered, grabs defensive coordinator Bob Gregory by the ear and leads him to her office to discuss the fallout from the game's unforeseen outcome.

(long exhale)

Left without adversaries, the remaining Oregon affiliates gather their chips and leave them with Pat Kilkenny to allocate them how he sees fit. After all, he doesn't need the money.

Alright, maybe not, but there will be a poker game being played today in Memorial Stadium and it will be high stakes.

The winner remains on a track towards a conference title, while the loser can begin preparation for a lower-tier bowl game, mediocre 2008 campaign, and questions regarding its place amongst the Pac-10's elite.

There are recruiting wars to be won, bragging rights to be secured, and respect to be earned.

The connections between these two programs have been well documented. Many of the coaches have ties, a large number of the players have ties, and the fan bases have been similarly labeled (I'll leave that one to you). There have been recruiting confrontations, tightly contested games, and ramifications transcending the conference and region.

All in recent years!

True both teams have struggled at times this year. And true the outcome will have little to no affect on the national scale. But it means a lot to Oregon, it means a lot to Cal, and it certainly means a lot to the race for the Pac-10 title.

It's time to ante up. The cards are on the table, let's see who's got the best hand.

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