The Exciting World of Poker

To play poker is to enter into situations full of unknowns — willingly. The game is like a series of puzzles that require constant attention and challenge players’ analytical abilities over and again. And if played mindfully, the game is always going to be a learning experience, even for the most seasoned players.

There’s no need to convince Cristiano Torezzan of these truths about poker. Like a handful of others at universities in several different countries, Torezzan has found a way to introduce some of poker’s many lessons into the context of higher education. Since 2013, the professor offers a college module in nearby Limeira called “Poker Basics,” an elective module in Sports Science that gives students a chance to appreciate the strategic complexity of poker as well as to learn its mathematical foundations and their application to everyday life.

Throughout the nine-day, 32-event Brazilian Series of Poker festival, various workshops are being held on a variety of topics, with today’s highlighting the educational benefits of poker. Torezzan, Alberoni “Bill” Castro of the Confederação Brasileira de Texas Hold’em, and Team PokerStars Pro Andre Akkari together formed a panel to discuss Torezzan’s module and other positives poker can produce, and the discussion was enlightening for the many in attendance.

Torezzan is a member of the faculty at the University of Campinas, a public university the main campus of which located here in São Paulo with satellites in Limeira (where he teaches) and Piracicaba. Founded in the mid-1960’s, “Unicamp” (as it’s called) has more than 1,700 faculty and serves well over 35,000 undergraduate and graduate students with a myriad of programs.

Torezzan has a post-doctorate in applied mathematics, although as he explained the module begins with few assumptions about students’ backgrounds, with the only prerequisites being “knowing how to read” and “being willing to think.”

The class starts out dispelling some myths about poker — e.g., that it is a gambling game like any other, devoid of skill. Akkari, who serves as a guest lecturer in the module, explained how he’d encountered people entirely new to poker asking whether or not dice were required to play.

From there the class covers the rules of Texas hold’em and discusses the development of the game over the years into a kind of intellectual “sport.” They then get into the math of poker (odds, probabilities, variance, risk management), strategic fundamentals (position, hand rankings, flop analysis), and advanced aspects (bankroll management, hand analysis, and “metagame”).