Living La Vida Poker

Once just a hobby, it's become a lifestyle and career for many people, sparking moral concerns and fear of increased addiction.

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Most use pretty strong words. "Gambling is a menace to society, deadly to the best interests of moral, social, economic, and spiritual life, and destructive of good government," says "The Book of Discipline" of The United Methodist Church. "Christians should abstain from gambling and should strive to minister to those victimized by the practice."

Nevertheless, the game's popularity has spawned a world of new products, many of which jokingly tie poker with religion, or treat the game as the "faith" it seems to have become for many people. There are high-end travel packages--pilgrimages of sorts--through which guests can go to the chichi Lake Austin Spa in Texas for a Poker Retreat or take a CardPlayer Cruise. And there is apparel, such as t-shirts featuring Jesus in shades dealing his 12 good buddies in, with the caption "Poker Night With the Guys (The Final Table)."

And then there's the poker education industry: Best-selling books, magazines, and a constantly proliferating universe of poker websites, blogs, and forums help fans analyze the game.

And the religious-products angle gets even more explicit.

"When we found out that 'poker' had become the most popular term on some search engines," says Chris Rainey, marketing director for Christian products company Kerusso, "we started thinking, 'How can we use the popularity of poker as a way to get people talking about their faith?'"

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