Centrepiece Online | Summer 2012
Everything I Need to Know about Poker I Learned at Centreby Matt Blevins ’99
Honing their bluffing skills:
Matt Blevins ’99 with his children
As anyone with cable TV has learned in the last few years, poker has arrived as the “sport” of choice for mostly middle-aged, fat men and a few Internet youth. While I have joined the craze, I can’t really be put on the bandwagon. See, in my time at Centre, I learned all about late night poker games—occasionally around a table at the DKE house (you know, the one with three legs and a concrete block centerpiece) and often on the road with the basketball team.
We played differing versions of the game, but the most notable variety is known as Texas Hold ’Em. On late night cable the specific title is “No Limit,” meaning that at any time a player can bet all of his chips to really pressure his opponent. We tried this at Centre but realized it is hard to bluff someone by saying “I’m all in” and pushing in 32 cents.
Admittedly the stakes were always low, and my buddies and I may or may not have been able to pay up (I recall many IOUs splashing the pot). Despite that, we sometimes learned as much at the poker table as we did in the classroom—or at least we learned basic math. It was this thought that made me ponder my tournament poker strategies and realize that most of what I know came from my time at Centre.
Five “Centre Rules” for No-Limit Texas Hold ’Em
It really is all about economics. I think it was Bruce K. Johnson who taught me that at the heart of every question lies an economic solution. Poker is really just graduate level Game Theory and reinforces the rule “play the player and not the cards.” May I suggest to Dr. Johnson that the famous Prisoner’s Dilemma be taught with a “Head’s Up” poker match.
Don’t go to the River* (or DKE creek) without a paddle. In poker they call it “outs.” You’ve got be able to catch the card that makes your hand or you have no business in the pot. Likewise, at DKE creek you needed a reliable inner tube and paddle-like mechanism or you were definitely walking along the banks hoping to catch a beverage from your river-rat friends.
There’s nothing like a good bluff. Bluffing is the art of convincing your opponent she is beat (yes, women play poker) when you have the worst hand. Some would say I wasn’t playing with a full deck in the first place, so no surprise that I had to hone my bluffing skills at Centre. Current students try this: Go a semester without your student ID (or any ID for that matter). If you don’t starve or flunk out you are probably ready for bluffing at the poker table.
There are lies, damn lies, and statistics. In poker, many players calculate odds and statistics ad nauseam to determine their best play. If I learned anything at Centre, it was that the “smart” thing is not always the right thing. Centre taught me to analyze people, events, and even poker in a way that brings together all information to arrive at a good decision. Sorry, Dr. Johnson, but I did take psychology, and I learned that economics only goes so far in explaining some people’s behavior.
“A Chip and a Chair” is a saying in poker that means if I have a seat at the table and a chip to play with then I have a chance to win. Centre gave me the chip and chair in life—the knowledge, skills, friendships, and social conscience—to make a difference and have a chance to . . . actually, I have already won.
* In Texas Hold ’Em you are dealt two cards. Then five community cards are placed on the table. Each player makes the best five-card hand using any combination of these cards. The last of the five community cards is called “The River.”
Matt Blevins ’99, aka “Kentucky Slim,” regularly loses poker games to his wife, Catherine Gillum Blevins ’99, before he takes on the tournament pros. He lives in Louisville, Ky., and his e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org — because that was his e-mail address at Centre.
Vol.53, No. 2
In this issue
- Faculty Conversations: Jane Wilson Joyce and Vince DiMartino
- Congratulations, Graduate. Now What?
- Ormond Beatty-1835
- The Marrying Kind