Yesterday my wife told me that she might submit a post to PokerMoments about poker and Quakerism. She’s a Quaker, and I remember her once telling me that Quakers don’t believe that playing the lottery is ethical. Perhaps they have similar views on poker, or gambling in general. I’m curious.
I’m not a Quaker. I’m a Jew, and as far as I know, Jews have no prohibitions against gambling for money. In fact, when I take a cursory look at the world of professional poker, at least with respect to men, I seem to see a large number of Jews.
I just finished reading Alvarez’s fine book “The Biggest Game in Town,” about Binions Horseshoe Casino and the 1981 WSOP. I thought it was interesting that when the final six players were left there were three Jews and three Texans, and Jewish Gabe Kaplan – aka Mr. Kotter – (see here for Kaplan’s impressive tournament record), bet against Texan Doyle Brunson about who would win the tournament, a Jew or a Texan. Kaplan bet on a Jew and won since Jewish “Stuey the Kid” Ungar won in 1981. For those who never heard of Ungar, he is considered by many poker players to be one of the greatest poker players who ever lived, one of only two players who has won the WSOP three times, winning it in 1980, 1981, and 1997. On a side note, the last three players at the 81 tournament were all Jewish, and one was Orthodox.
The disproportionate number of Jews who are quite good professional poker players perhaps points to something in Judaism that contributes to this connection. The only thing that comes to my mind is that on Hannukah there is a wagering game played with a dreidel. Is there anything else? If anyone else knows anything about the tenets or teachings of Judaism that might explain the ties between Jews and poker, please let me know.