Poker skills: Playing against the odds is a rational way to win

Success isn't about finding one great way to achieve something and sticking with it. It's about looking at all the possible options and computing success through analysis.

Success isn't about finding one great way to achieve something and sticking with it. It's about looking at all the possible options and computing success through analysis. It works brilliantly in poker, and it works well in life, too.

Understanding addiction: Why your brain gets hooked on gambling

The brain of a gambling addict mimics that of a drug addict. But no outside chemicals are involved. How does that happen?

Author and neuroscience journalist Maia Szalavitz says that your brain doesn't necessarily choose to become addicted to gambling. Rather, it just really wants to figure out a pattern. This 'want' doesn't need any foreign chemicals in order to make it work. In the mind of a serious gambler, their brain wants to find order in the game's structure so bad that it will keep the person playing, telling itself that it will figure it out and that it's just one step away from becoming rich. This doesn't happen to everyone — on the contrary, addictive gamblers are a small yet potent percentage of all gamblers — but their brains mimic that of a severe drug addict trying to get their next fix. Maia's latest book is Unbroken Brain: A Revolutionary New Way of Understanding Addiction.

Why elementary schools should teach poker

Might a simple card game have a giant positive effect on a child? Professional poker player Liv Boeree thinks so.

Champion poker player Liv Boeree isn't suggesting that children become professional gamblers who play for high stakes, like she often does. But she is suggesting that if more children learned poker, they might be more ready for the real world. For instance, what is a poker hand other than a progressive set of decisions with consequences, sort of like adult life itself? Liv posits that children would learn that their actions have consequences and the benefits of updating your beliefs, both of which are very important developmental skills (and ones that even some adults have yet to master). You can find out more about Liv at www.livboeree.com.

How to tell if someone’s bluffing: body language lessons from a poker pro

Want to predict someone's next move, or know if someone is telling you a lie? Learn to read body language like a poker pro.

A good poker face can win you a fortune or help you sell a difficult lie, but that term might be leading us all astray. For poker champ Liv Boeree, calling someone's bluff isn't about their face at all, it's often much more about their body as a whole—and one part in particular. "The feet are often the most reliable thing to look at on your opponent because they might be completely stoic in their face but their feet are bouncing around," she says. We're all hyper aware of our faces as a primary point of communication, but our bodies are speaking more loudly than we may realize. Typically, "the lower down on the body that you're looking at, the more reliable the information," she says. Keep in mind, reading body language is an art not a science, but thanks to Boeree's years of experience at the poker table she highlights some classic behaviors of bluffers, and reliable strategies for those who want to call them out. Find more from Liv Boeree at www.livboeree.com.

How to outfox someone who's smarter than you

Sometimes the best strategy is to think completely outside the box. Or not have a strategy at all.

If you want to win, it's best to think crazy like a fox. Nobody knows this better than Kevin Zollman — a nationally recognized expert in game theory and associate professor of philosophy at Carnegie Mellon University — who suggests that perhaps the best way to get ahead of your opponent is to think completely counterintuitively. This works especially well in poker, where breaking the flow (say, bluffing when you have nothing) can keep your foes from guessing your next move. A little dose of crazy goes a long way. Zollman is the co-author of The Game Theorist's Guide to Parenting: How the Science of Strategic Thinking Can Help You Deal with the Toughest Negotiators You Know — Your Kids, with Paul Raeburn.