Recently there was a NYTimes article about a Harvard professor (Charles Nesson) and some of his students that formed a group that shows how poker can be used to teach cognitive skills. The name of their group is the Global Poker Strategic Thinking Society. Their idea is a good one. I’ve discussed it in an earlier post about Steven Lubet’s book Lawyer’s Poker: 52 Lessons that Lawyers Can Learn from Card Players. His fun book is a great guide for how poker could be effectively used to teach lawyers how to become better lawyers. But why stop at law? Since poker deals with risk assessment and situational analysis, it could be used in business school. You could become a better negotiator or real estate agent because poker can teach you how to read people. People, such as Nesson, also think poker should be used as an educational tool for middle schoolers learning math. Wow! If they had taught me about poker in middle school and explained things like pot odds, I would have loved math.
Would using poker as an educational tool for middle school kids encourage them to gamble? Perhaps. But intuitively it seems to me that if you really understand the game of poker and probability you will less likely have a gambling addiction. If you understand odds, you will see how stupid games like the lottery and slots are. Perhaps, as Plato taught us over two thousand years ago, reason may have a great amount of control over desire. Hence the more you know about the game of poker the less likely you will lose control to it.