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Bad Logic

Via Karol's post on I Had Outs, I stumbled upon an 'article' (I loathe legitimizing it by actually referring to it as an article) whose main premise is that the popularity of Texas Hold'em caused the recent financial meltdown. The article's author was referencing a few out-of-context paragraphs from a book by George Akerlof and Robert Shiller called Animal Spirits. The paragraphs are from a chapter on how corruption and bad faith can influence the business cycle, which examines the national shift away from bridge to poker, and specifically Texas Hold'em. As described, Texas Hold'em is "...played by individuals for themselves alone, emphasize a type of deception variously called bluffing and 'keeping a poker face,' and are generally played for money." Without rehashing all of the article here, the final question asked by Animal Spirits' authors was: if card games played by millions of people shift the role of deception, wouldn't we be naive simply to assume that such shifts do not also occur in the world of commerce?

This is another one of those times where some douschebag has decided to take two trends, unfairly link them, and then completely fabricate an explanation for the connection. We have th following two trends, which we will assume as true for the purpose of this argument.

1. The financial crisis was caused by an increase in unscrupulous business practices.

2. Poker has become more popular over time.

Naturally, you can attack #1 for all sorts of reasons, but we'll assume it's truth since that's the easiest way to link the two trends. The article/book suggests that the increased popularity of poker has somehow spurred a nation of people to become liars who only look out for themselves, particularly in matters of money. And while those two things might be happening (increased popularity of poker and decreased ethics) the two are not necessarily cause and effect as the article wishes to opine.

Quite simply, assuming both to be true, it is highly likely that the increased popularity in poker was caused by this nation's decent into depravity, rather than vice versa. With the increased emphasis on money, people may have found poker more interesting or applicable to their everyday lives. With decreased virtue, players who might otherwise avoid gambling may decide to give it a try. But make no doubt about it; people do not learn poker and then decide, oh hey, thanks to poker, I now have no quams about making money at other peoples' expense in the financial markets. Likewise, people don't try poker and then decide to change their entire moral code.

I don't even know if I am over explaining it. I'm just saying that poker's popularity probably benefited from the new American Dream, which has shifted from Making it big with hard work, to Making it big with no work.

God damn, I hate the manipulation of facts for propaganda purposes.

Until next time, make mine poker!

Disclaimer: The article is not definitive and even states that it is just a theory, unsupported scientifically. It still annoys me though.

posted by Jordan @ 6:13 PM,


At 3:11 AM, Blogger smokkee said...

didn't poker also kick off the war in Iraq?

"weapons of mass destruction"

At 10:35 AM, Blogger Alceste said...

And if one really wants to make silly causal connections, the Great Depression was preceded by Prohibition and this recession was preceded by the UIGEA -- so it clearly must have been modern puritanism that caused the economy to suffer.

At 6:23 PM, Blogger Littleacornman said...

I've not played live poker for nearly two years.Reading your trip reports and thinking about how I have plenty of live poker available on my doorstep when players like you have to travel for hours prompted me to play a wee live tourney tonight.I didn't cash but I did enjoy it and will certainly be back for more soon.Thanks for the inspiration.All I need now is a Superman T-shirt....

At 12:56 PM, Blogger Wolfshead said...

All I know is that Gordon Gecko was announcing "greed is good" and Milliken designed junk bonds long before Moneymaker won the WSOP


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