English poker pro Liv Boeree recently hosted a TEDx talk about her life and how professional poker players rationalize their worlds using probabilities.
For her opening gambit in a presentation titled “A Number Speaks a Thousand Words,” Boeree explained how she and boyfriend Igor Kurganov recently decided to put a probability on how long their relationship would last.
Being a fellow poker pro, Kurganov was able to calculate the variables in much the same way as Boeree, which meant the two came to almost identical predictions.
From Emotions to Rational Thinking
Using this as the basis of her discussion, the PokerStars pro went on to describe how she became a poker player and how she’s learned to deal with bad luck by using numbers. At the heart of her TEDx Manchester talk, Boeree was trying to convey how probabilities can help us understand situations in a more realistic way.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the talk was the focus on confidence or, more accurately, the overconfidence bias which causes us to attribute 100% certainty to events. Explaining that virtually nothing in life has a 100 percent probability, the astrophysics graduate from the University of Manchester outlined how this tendency can cause us to gamble when we don’t realize it.
Using the economic crisis of 2008 as evidence, Boeree takes this concept and subtly weaves in many of the fundamental lessons poker players learn during their careers.
From understanding that the best hand won’t always win to risking more than is warranted given the odds of success, the presentation contains some clever interplay between poker, life, and mathematics.
While Boeree does say that people don’t have to learn how to play poker in order to understand probabilities, the message is clear by implication. By talking about some fairly complex topics in an erudite way, she is not only demonstrating the thought process of a poker player but dispelling the myth that the game is all about gambling.
Improving Public Perception of Poker
In detailing her experience, Boeree said that she was initially contacted by the TEDx team while at the 2018 PCA. Despite being given less than a month to prepare, she seized the opportunity to speak in front of 2,400 audience members.
“I didn’t get opportunity to practice it on stage, or in front of an audience other than Igor and my Mum – speaking of which, Igor deserves a special thanks – not only did he help me with ideas (he’s a wealth of rationality knowledge) but he was an absolute saint in the run-up to the event,” Boeree wrote on PokerStars’ blog.
As part of her role as a PokerStars pro, Boeree has undertaken a number of projects to help raise the profile of PokerStars and poker as a whole.
With her sponsor currently angling its products toward a more mainstream audience, the talk (see video above) should help novices see that there is value in the game beyond winning money.