Members of the professional poker world understand poker to be a game of intense strategy and precise focus.
It involves a set of mental skills that take years of practice to develop. Ivy League universities like Harvard, Yale, and Princeton are beginning to tap into this table sport as a way to teach students how to make better business decisions. In time, this could revolutionise the education system for the better.
Getting Poker in the Classroom
Mind sports like poker, chess, bridge, and checkers all offer important lessons for college students. Incorporating the latter three in the classroom is relatively easy, but getting school boards to approve of poker has become quite a challenge. Harvard University and poker are getting into a serious relationship lately. Professor Nesson of Harvard says that grade school children should be taught poker games so that they can develop the skills of managing their money properly. His Global Poker Strategic Thinking Society is seriously promoting the idea of using poker as a platform to teach strategic thinking to children in the classrooms.
The hesitance for acceptance spawns from poker’s connection to gambling. Schools do not want to come across as if they are in favor of gambling practices, so they tend to disassociate themselves with Hold’Em, Stud, Omaha, Black Jack, and any other games of that nature. Universities have to get creative when suggesting the idea of poker in the classroom, and luckily some hard-hitters have succeeded with this. With Princeton, UCLA, USC and other schools on board, other universities are sure to follow suit.
Applying Poker Strategy to Real Life
The lessons learned in poker have real-world impacts. For example, a student studying to be a private investigator may learn how to analyze body language to determine when a person is lying. A student enrolled in an accounting degree will learn about statistics and financial planning by playing poker.
The list below showcases some of the many skills students develop through college poker leagues:
- Critical reasoning
- Risk assessment
- Investment planning
- Prolonged focus
- Mental stamina
The more students play, the better they are at developing these skills in their professional lives. This is particularly helpful for graduates in the fields of business, technology, psychology, and law.
Giving Students Access to Poker Tournaments
Because of the controversy surrounding paid poker online, many students do not have easy access to poker games and tournaments. Nevada, New Jersey, and Delaware all offer legal online poker for players 18 and older. The rest of the country is still in debate.
There are several ways students in non-legalized states can still practice playing poker. They can…
Play poker for free online. This may not yield any financial gains, but it can allow students to understand the statistics behind the game.
Play poker with friends or classmates. Many schools have developed poker leagues, where they hold strategy meetings and host tournaments to give students the practice they need.
Play poker at casinos. This leans more towards the taboo concept of college students gambling, but it may be the only way a student has a chance to play with new people in real life. This is the best way to learn how to read people and how to control your body to intimidate others.
Play other mind sports. When all else fails, many of the same skills found in poker can be found in chess, bridge, or checkers.
Seeing Poker Work for Real Graduates
Many professional poker players have college degrees. The types of degrees they have vary greatly, but most of them are centered in business, law, or technology. Here are some examples of poker pros who graduated college:
- Annie Duke – Colombia University, Bachelor’s in English and Psychology, one month shy of a Ph.D. in Psychology
- Chris Ferguson – UCLA, Ph.D. in Computer Science
- Vanessa Selbst – Yale University, Bachelor’s in Political Science
- Scott Siever – Brown University, Bachelor’s in Computer Science
- Isaac Haxton – Brown University, Bachelor’s in Philosophy
- Andy Bloch – Harvard Law School, Juris Doctor
All of these players have at least one World Series of Poker bracelet, and they have won millions of dollars playing poker professionally. The skills used in poker tie directly into the skills needed to succeed in college, as evident by the number of pros with college degrees.
By continuing to adapt poker and mind sports like it as extra-curricular activities in college, we can develop a new population of bright, forward-thinking individuals that are ready to dominate on a professional platform. The future looks positive.