Steven Lubet is a lawyer who’s also a Professor of Law at Northwestern University. He’s written a book titled Lawyer’s Poker: 52 Lessons that Lawyers Can Learn from Card Players. Both Sparky and I really enjoyed it. I couldn’t put it down. It’s fun, interesting, informative and says some insightful, intelligent things about luck, one of my favorite philosophical poker concepts that I’ve grappled with in prior posts on luck (see e.g. here).
In a few days, Sparky will be posting an interview with Steven Lubet. It’s a great interview, packed with a lot of food for thought. To prepare you for the interview, I thought I’d say a few things about the book.
As the title suggests, Lubet presents 52 poker lessons, lessons that lawyers can use in many different aspects of law practice to become better lawyers, and lessons that poker players can use to become better poker players. Many of the lessons are basic and obvious ones, such as the lesson on paying attention, which advises you to pay attention to your opponents at the poker table in order to read them.
But Lubet doesn’t just state the obvious. He fleshes out each lesson with interesting examples, stories and advice. For example, in the lesson on paying attention, Lubet makes reference to Mike Caro’s advice about common tells that are unique to the flop, such as when a player who involuntarily stares at his chips indicates that he likes the flop.
In another lesson, Lubet discusses the concepts of expected value and pot odds. You can find an explanation of these concepts in a million different places on the Web, but Lubet’s presentation of these concepts involves an explanation of how they’re useful to lawyers. This sort of comparison between poker and law practice, which runs throughout the book, makes it much more enjoyable to read about such abstract concepts. And more importantly, makes these concepts more easily understood.
My only quibble with the book is Lubet’s comparison between poker and law. He argues that poker is unproductive, while law practice “is essentially admirable” because it’s connected with justice and “facilitates autonomy.” I agree with Lubet that poker is unproductive. I also agree with him that law is admirable. But I’m not so sure I agree with him about how admirable the practice of law is. The more skillful lawyer is the one who represents his client better. But a lawyer who represents his client better does not always serve justice better. Think OJ. (In a different context Lubet says some interesting things about the OJ case, as well as the Oscar Wilde case, the Bill Clinton case, and many other famous cases).
Quibble aside, Lawyer’s Poker is one of the best poker books I’ve ever had the pleasure to read. Open and shut case!