Poker Theory At Clark: The Art of Card Dealing

Benjamin Laverde, Contributing Writer

Poker is still a mystery and largely unsolved. The possibilities for hands and different strategies around bluffing are nearly infinite. It was not until January 2017 when a computer, developed by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University, was able to finally beat the top poker players in the world. 

On Monday, Feb. 3, I went to figure out the secrets of poker myself, at Clark University’s first poker theory club. I’ve played poker with friends a few times, but this was the first official event of this game I had ever attended. 

The club is run by Jordan Blocher, a junior at Clark who has played poker competitively for over 10 years, both online and in person. Jordan said that his main goal in creating the club was to teach people about the advanced strategic considerations behind the game of poker. 

“My interest in the club is in exposing people to a way of thinking unlike anything they have ever been exposed to previously. Most poker clubs on college campuses place their emphasis on actually playing the game with friends,” said Blocher. “There were only a few people at the first meeting because of the Mock Iowa Caucus and other events at Clark, but many people have expressed that they plan to attend next week’s meeting.”

The people who did get the chance to come to the first meeting, such as Sophomore Cole Norman, seemed intrigued by the concept of the club. 

“As my first introduction to a game theory of any kind, I found the event very enlightening,” said Norman. “It was a fun introduction for me to poker.”

At Monday’s meeting, we spent a lot of the time going over how to play no-limit Texas Holdem. “What many people do not know about Texas Holdem is that, unlike most traditional games you might find in a casino, there is an incredible amount of theory and math that goes into the game and so I thought it would be really cool to expose interested Clarkies to a game which I feel has improved my critical thinking skills tremendously over time,” explained Blocher.

Texas Holdem is a variant of poker that normally includes nine people at a table. Each of the nine players are then dealt two cards. During subsequent rounds of the game, cards are added to the middle of the table. While in the middle, they can be combined with the cards people already possess. From there, each player must attempt to form the best possible five-card hand they can make. The no-limit part of the game means that there is no limit to what people can bet.

Aside from the card variants, the club discussed generalized poker tactics, and how peoples’ mindsets can often get the best of them in a tournament. Poker is a game where players always think they are better than they are. 

“We are not naturally good at spotting our own pitfalls and shortcomings, and when I hit a rough patch in my poker career I was planning to just quit playing entirely,” said Blocher. “This is called the Dunning-Kruge effect. But, fortunately, I met a friend in the community who served as my coach for a few months and it changed everything I thought I knew about poker. He exposed so many flaws in my reasoning so quickly and I realized a lot of this information isn’t readily available to people who want to improve at this game.” 

The club meets at 7:30pm on Monday nights and will be held in the Lurie Conference Room in the University Center.