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Arthur S. ReberI’ve spent over fifty years living two parallel lives. In one I am a semi-degenerate gambler, a poker junkie, horse player, and blackjack maven; in the other, a scientist specializing in cognitive psychology and related topics in the neurosciences, the origins of consciousness and the philosophy of mind. For the most part, I’ve kept these tracks separate mainly because my colleagues in each have little appreciation for the wonder, the complexities and the just full-bore fun in the other.

But over time these two avenues of my life have meshed. There’s a lot that we know about human psychology that can give us insight into gambling, especially poker and, of course, there’s a lot that poker can teach us about human psychology. It is quite astonishing how richly these topics interlock. I’ll also introduce you to some engaging characters I’ve known – bookies, con artists, hustlers, professional poker players and perhaps an occasional famous scientist.

This site will wander about in both worlds with new columns and articles along with links to scores of previously published ones. Now that I’ve retired I’ve become something of a political junkies and will go on rants on politics and economics,  When the mood strikes I’ll share views on food, restaurants and cooking. Any and all feedback is welcome.

Entries in Poker (41)


Getting Started in Poker

So let’s play a little poker I: The culture of the card room Poker continues to grow in popularity. Card rooms are flourishing in Atlantic City, in the Connecticut woods, the Mississippi shore, the riverboats in the Midwest, the entire west coast and, of course, in Las Vegas —- not to mention all those quasi-legal ’private’ clubs that have long operated in cities and towns around the country. And not only are people playing the game, they are talking about it, reading about it and debating strategy. There are magazines devoted to poker, chat rooms, web sites, poker counselors, poker ‘boot-camps,’ hundreds of major poker tournaments are run every week with entry fees from a few cents (in online games) to $50,000. The Main Event at the World Series of Poker has attracted over 8,000 players in some years, each of whom ponied up $10,000 for a shot at immortality.

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Stress in the Poker Wars

Poker is: (a) A stressful game (b) A game people play to relax (c) Both I choose ‘(c)’. Your answer will depend on a host of factors: how good a player you are, the stakes you play for and your own reasons for sitting down in the first place. Most poker players actually aren’t particularly skilled, but that’s okay. They are playing mainly for recreation. They play with friends in home games, they hit the local casino every once in a while, or fire up the old computer for an on-line game. The stakes are typically low and if they lose a couple of bucks, who even notices. If they win, cool. For these poker players, (b) is the answer and stress is largely absent.

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The Slow Play

A friend of mine, let’s call him Zorro, is a frequent contributor to our poker chat room. Zorro signs off all his emails with the line “more money has been lost than won by slow playing big hands.” It’s a good line. I’ve read it now maybe a thousand times and am impressed by how firmly my friend clearly believes this is gospel.

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Projection in Poker

Projection is a classic phenomenon in psychology. Most people have heard the word and may even have a pretty good sense of what it refers to. But for clarity and to make sure that we’re all on the same page, here’s the key line from the authoritative Penguin Dictionary of Psychology.

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The Gambler’s Fallacy

You’ve probably never heard of the gambler’s fallacy; if you have, go click on another link. If not, read on because if you don’t know you have likely fallen into its trap and it’s costing you money. The gambler’s fallacy is a condition that besets nearly everyone at various times in their lives. However, as befits the name, it is famously frequent in gamblers and it is, of course, a fallacy. It was discovered by psychologists and has been a topic of study for decades and the “ol’ perfesser” here is going to give a lecture on it. Get out your notebooks.

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