The student news site of Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology


The student news site of Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology


The student news site of Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology


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Lead Editorial: More money, less sense

TJ Bets, Jefferon’s infamous poker circle, has managed to seep into a significant number of classes throughout the day
Evelyn Li
Between hands of online poker, a group of Jefferson students make time for the lesson being taught during class. The issue of gambling during the instructional period has come to afflict several classes across Jefferson.

From the December 2023 Issue of tjTODAY

English class. Screens up. Teacher asks a question; doesn’t matter. Group chat is live. Link is sent. Cards dealt. Chips are down. TJ Bets, a group of student gamblers, has been lurking in the shadows for the past few months. With a couple hundred dollars and a reputation hanging in the balance, focus on literature is not in the cards.

The group organizes poker games via an online browser; while no official transactions occur virtually over the browser, the consequences are still very real. Students buy-in and wager however much they like online with the clear expectation that all winnings and losses are to be accounted for with real money. 

To hold players accountable, a spreadsheet with running totals for every single participating student is kept up to date, illustrating just how rampant this issue is with games being played continuously during the day.

Considering prize pools range upwards of hundreds of dollars alongside the frequency of games, it’s evident that this organization likely violates an established rule, not to mention the clear social tension brought about by being indebted to a fellow student.

As such, it’s important to look at the implications both in terms of the Fairfax County Public Schools Student Rights & Responsibilities (SR&R) and its impact on the school environment. 

Aside from concerns regarding state law, according to the SR&R, “gambling or betting, wagering, or playing games of chance… in any form for profit,” can potentially result in disciplinary action up to and including a five-day suspension. Furthermore, if the matter is escalated, students can then be reported to the division superintendent. 

When considering disruption within the classroom, this is a first for Jefferson. While we’ve witnessed similar trends such as chess and the crossword distracting students during instructional time, nothing compares to the additional strain of monetary risk associated with poker. 

As hands are dealt live, the pressure to lock in and match the game’s pace requires undivided attention. It is therefore evident this behavior is entirely disrespectful to both teachers and classmates, particularly when engaged in group work. 

When considering dynamics within the organization itself, the most obvious consequence is succumbing to a gambling mentality. This fact is undoubtedly made worse as the spreadsheet details just how much money is gained or lost to anyone in the group who cares to see.

While the source of money for these group members may vary, it is safe to assume that different economic situations can influence a player’s ability to repay losses of the week. Due to the frequency of these games, many class periods a day, and the freedom of how much money can be bet, it’s not difficult for the numbers to total up to obscene amounts by the end of the week. 

While yes, players can make their own judgment calls regarding when to play, or more appropriately, whether to play at all, it is more than likely that underlying peer pressure has motivated several costly buy-ins.

While each student is responsible for their education and how they choose to spend class time, the actions of TJ Bets serve as a frustration for others beyond this sphere of players. Not only is it a clear violation of the SR&R, but it also has the potential to quickly escalate to a toxic social environment if members of the group are not conscientious about the real consequences of betting real money.

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