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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.


The Final Hour

OK, so the title sounds somewhat apocalyptic. That’s okay; I thought it might help get your attention. Of course, the final hour of a poker session is less cosmic and certainly less dramatic than it would be in a sci-fi novel or an end-of-the-world movie. But most players have no idea how dangerous that final hour can be. Over the years I have watched more players make more mistakes, cost themselves more money, and self-inflict more grief during these final 60 or so minutes than you can imagine. There are psychological reasons for this and if we understand them perhaps we can prevent future occurrences. I hope you noticed that “we” in the preceding —- that’s because I include myself in that category of those who’ve screwed up during the last couple of orbits before cashing out.

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Murder, Mayhem and Misinterpretation

Two events occurred that drew the attentions of sports bettors, poker aficionados, small-time hoods, organized crime, the casino industry and, of course, the legal establishment. In one, a sports-betting ring operating “in” the poker room at Atlantic City’s Borgata casino was broken up. The word “in” is in quotes to make it clear that, while the action took place in the casino, its personnel and management have not (so far as is publicly known) been implicated. The second occurred in one of the larger underground poker rooms in New York City where armed robbers held up the club. In the chaotic scene that ensured a gun went off (apparently accidentally, as if that mattered) and killed one of the players, a middle-aged school teacher from New Jersey who was a regular in the room.

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I’m Just Playing My Rush

We’ve all seen this one: Some guy wins a couple of hands in a row. He starts telling jokes, high-fiving friends, and gleefully stacking chips while announcing to all just how good he really is. To some extent, we all do this. It is almost irresistible. We’ve all been on a “rush;” it’s a real high. We feel invulnerable. We believe that it was our skill that led to this tsunami of chips now in front of us. A little later reality may force a return to a more sober assessment of our game, but for now we feel pretty damn good about ourselves. Winning a whole lot of chips is great fun and if we can’t enjoy these moments, what’s the point?

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So, I was in my favorite game of $5 - $10 no limit hold ‘em playing with all the verve and grace of a guy who has been on a bit of roll. I got smacked around pretty quickly when a bluff got snapped off and a flopped set got run down but, no matter, I’m the best here, right? Right!

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Self Deception, Self-awareness

Try this next time you stroll into work, a bar, the family Thanksgiving fest, or your favorite poker room. Approach your buddies, co-workers, colleagues, spouses or significant others and ask them, in a candid sort of way, whether they think that they “know who they are” as people. I can guarantee you that they will all, to a man to a woman, say, “yes, of course” and then will proceed to tell you all about themselves.

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