Why Physicists Clean Up at Poker
To start, they understand numbers
By Emily Rauhala,  Newser User
Posted Oct 30, 2010 7:30 PM CDT
A dealer pauses while waiting on a player during the first round on opening day of the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas on Monday, July 5, 2010.   (AP Photo/Laura Rauch)

(Newser) – What's the not-so-simple secret of playing poker? Quantum physics, finds NPR. It turns out that several top players are physicists—and that's no fluke. Physicists understand probability, statistics, and modeling. "I mean—when you think about it—they build models of the world," says Jennifer Ouellette, author of a Discover piece on the subject. Her husband is a poker-playing physicist and he, and several others, have found it's a winning combination.

To wit: Physicist Michael Binger placed third in the 2006 World Series of Poker, taking home $4 million; Liv Boeree won a cool $1.6 million last spring at a tournament in Italy (a fellow physicist placed fourth). When Ouellette's husband plays, he tries to build a model based on his opponents' betting patterns and tells, which he uses to predict their moves. Another poker-playing physicist points to his peers' ability to steel their emotions. "In physics, you have to be able to sit down and work on a long complicated calculation that may often take you weeks or even a month..." and could end up being totally wrong. "Being able to deal with extended periods of bad luck or things not going well is something that's required to be a physicist."