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College Poker Life: The Growth of the GPSTS

College Poker Life: The Growth of the GPSTS 0001

While some schools may have poker clubs, weekly poker nights, and even large, freeroll poker events, students at universities such as Harvard, Yale, UCLA, and USC have been fortunate enough to join new chapters in one of the newest societies of poker: the Global Poker Strategic Thinking Society. The focus of the Society has been to bring to academia the idea of poker as a game of skill and a teacher of life lessons. For students who love the game of poker and want to improve their knowledge and skill, plus understand why poker is skill and not luck, the Global Poker Strategic Thinking Society is their answer.

The Global Poker Strategic Thinking Society [GPSTS] was founded by Charles Nesson, a professor of law at Harvard Law School, and graduate law student Andrew Woods. Nesson, who serves as the society's president, is also the founder of the Berkman Center for Internet Society and co-created the GPSTS with the intent to use poker as a teaching tool for students. The GPSTS sees its main goals as "encouraging the continuing development of chapters at universities across the world; conducting academic seminars, panel discussions and lectures that explore poker as a means to teach strategic thinking and related public policy issues; sponsoring team poker matches between law, business and other professional schools; and holding academic conferences to focus on the educational applications of poker strategic thought and related fields."

As with many poker enthusiasts, the GPSTS views the game of poker as one of skill, not luck. The GPSTS's focus is on using poker to teach strategic thinking, geopolitical analysis, risk assessment and money management, and, as they put it, to use poker as a "metaphor for skills of life, business, politics and international relations."

The GPSTS saw two major events last semester for its chapters, the first annual Harvard-Yale poker match, which took place on November 16th, and the UCLA/USC First Annual Crosstown Poker Tournament held on November 30th. Each event was a great success for the GPSTS; the UCLA event was also able to have Annie Duke meet with its attendees on November 29th, the evening preceding the tournament itself, to discuss the game of poker. Duke also watched the event the following day. Outside of these two events, the Harvard GPSTS presented Howard Lederer at a discussion panel called "Poker: A Game of Truth in Life and Law," where Lederer and the students discussed many aspects of poker, specifically pertaining to the life lessons in which students can learn from playing the game.

The GPSTS also held an 'Innovative Thinking' conference in November, further titled "The Educational Value of Poker." The conference featured Jim McManus, Mike Sexton, and Dr. Alan Schoonmaker as speakers and gave McManus the chance to discuss his work-in-progress called The Story of Poker (scheduled to be published in the fall of 2009 by Farrar, Straus & Giroux). Schoonmaker's talk was entitled "Poker is a Better Teaching Metaphor than Sports," and delved into three recent Schoonmaker pieces on the topic: "Poker is Good for You," "Is Poker Socially Useful? Part 1," and "Is Poker Socially Useful? Part 2." The chance to sit and listen to these presenters was an invaluable opportunity for any student of poker.

The Global Poker Strategic Thinking Society already has chapters established or planned at Harvard, UCLA, Stanford, Carnegie-Mellon, Cornell, Michigan, Tufts, Indiana–South Bend, and George Washington, and is looking to establish chapters at many more schools. Although the GPSTS was just recently started, the growth and development of the program is a fast success. Students wanting to know if their school is already a chapter, or seeking information on how to start a chapter, should contact the GPSTS at for more information.

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