Four Kinds of Male Poker Players: Rational, Angry, Disrespecting, Flirting

Question: What obstacles have you found as a female poker player?

Annie Duke: I personally haven’t found any obstacles. I think that’s because I am very focused on what my goals are in the game. My goals aren’t social ones. If I had goals that were social in nature, if I felt like I wanted to always have good social interactions with people at the table, that I didn’t want to have negative reactions with people at the table, then there would be obstacles to being a woman. I don’t think about it that way. People having negative reactions to me at the table is actually a good thing. It means they are emotionally wrapped up in my existence, which means they are not going to play well. That’s not true for a lot of women. What I can tell you is that the downside to being a female in this world because poker doesn’t have the same kind of glass ceiling because nobody is hiring you. Nobody is setting your salary. There aren’t a lot of the negatives that happen in business where you won’t get promoted because your boss is a chauvinistic ass-hole, or you are getting paid less than your male colleagues, that stuff doesn’t exist here because you are playing by your own wits, it’s our own money, and you’re just winning money according to how much better in the game you are.

That being said, when I was playing in Montana, I got called very bad names on a daily basis. I would win a hand and it would be just a random hand, and the person would look at me and say, “You fucking cunt.” I’m not kidding. That happened to me pretty much every day, which is an interesting reaction to losing a hand of poker. What you would consider sexual harassment or things that wouldn’t be okay in every day interaction become fair game in a lot of player’s minds at the poker table. Some how they feel like because you have agreed to sit down at the table that they are allowed to treat you however they want because it was your choice to sit down in their world. They seemed to think that it was okay to be using those words in relation to me.

Now, that would be a very big negative for most women, .being treated that way. I remember one time I won a hand from someone and he looked at me and he called me a frigid bitch, which was really weird. I’ve been really overtly and disgustingly hit on at the table. I was playing in a game once with somebody who – I won’t say who they are, but they were actually a very famous television producer, and [he] kept saying to me, “Can I look in your hole?” “What’s in your hole?” “Can I get in there?” Because you have hole cards. They thought they were being funny with this pun. I was playing once with a famous actor who was eating lamb chops at the table, and he said, “Hey, do you want to try my meat?” After he was done with his meat, he lifted up the bone and he said, “What about my bone?” Obviously, none of that is appropriate in pretty much any circumstance, but I get faced with that regularly. Again, most women I think would find that a negative, a downside. A lot of women end up not coming back to the table because they are treated that way. It didn’t bother me because I didn’t look at it as any kind of statement on who I was or whether that was appropriate because, again, it wasn’t like these people were my bosses. It wasn’t their job to hire me.

Question: How do you get back at them?

Annie Duke: As a good poker player, what you are doing is you are watching the way that somebody behaves at the table. You see what they’ve done with past hands so you can use that past information. Who they are as a person? Are the conservative? Are they wild? What are their hand ranges that you’ve seen them play in certain positions? How have they bet good hands? How have they bet bad hands? How have they behaved? You take all of that data that you have collected about that player so that when you are in a hand with them you can use all of that in order to predict their behavior and predict their hand. You’re constantly updating that based on what you see them do.

At the poker table, stereotypes can be good as a starting point. I sit down at a table. I've never played with anybody before in my whole life-- its a kid's [who has] a baseball cap and he's wearing headphones and a hoody. I look at that guy and I say this guy definitely views himself as a poker player and he's probably going to be trying fancy plays. I can make some assumptions about how that person is going to behave given that I might get in a hand with them before I’ve ever seen them play. I need kind of a jumping off point. If I see a businessman [in] a tie and suit, they're probably not someone who plays poker all the time, they're probably going to be less experience[d]. They're very likely to be conservative in their play in [and] less likely to be making plays on me. I can make certain assumptions about the way people play in, butI have to be willing to update those as I see them play hands. It might turn out that the kid with the baseball cap [is] only [dressed] that way because he's seen people dress like that on TV, and he's actually the worst poker player I've ever seen. Likewise the businessmen might actually be very good. It turns out that there are stereotypes that you can make about women at the table. They tend to be less aggressive; they tend to be more straightforward, so when they bet it's more likely that they have it. They do make plays, they are very unlikely to be bluffing you. They tend to be more passive players rather than more aggressive players. That comes from them being less experienced because women tend not [to] play poker a lot. When a woman sits down at the table, [you] could make the reasonable assumption that they are probably a less experienced player and they're going to have certain attributes. As soon as you start seeing them play you have to change [your] mind.

Topic: “Lucky” bitch

Annie Duke: The advantage to being a woman is that men are very unwilling to change their minds about who you are as a person, because the stereotypes that men have about women and their emotional reactions have been built into them since they were little tiny baby's. It's very hard for them to undo a lifetime of stereotypes. They tend not to update their information about you based on who you are. The best example I can give is a hand that I actually played against or having for this guy, and this was back in Montana, this guy raised with King, nine of diamonds, and I re-raised them with ace, king of hearts and they called me, and the board came a king and two small hearts. And so, he flopped a king but had a nine with it, and I flopped a king, but I had an ace with it. So, I had, by far, the best hand. And he bet and I raised and he re-raised me, and I re-raised him, and re-raised me, and I re-raised him, and he finally called. And then on the next card, he checked and I bet, and he raised me, and I re-raised him, and he called. And then on the next card, he checked, and I bet, and he called. So, I turned over my ace, king of hearts. And notice, at no time did I have the worst hand. I had the best hand literally from start to finish. I behaved completely rationally in the hand. And so anyway, I turned my hand over, and now he flips his hand face up on the table and he’s like, “You see what a lucky bitch she is? She’s always so lucky. You know, what are you supposed to do, she’s so lucky.” And so on and so forth. And this really came from his inability to accept that I might just be a better player than him. And I might have just had a better hand than he did. He had to attribute it to luck because he was unwilling to update his stereotype of who I was as a person.

Now, this person actually, I found out a few years later, beat his wife almost on a nightly basis. So, you can imagine how strong his views of women were in terms of not wanting to give them credit and I was really horrified when I found that out, but interestingly not surprised because he was one of those C-word people. So, but that’s really common. So, I sort of divide men into three categories – well four categories. There’s men who are rational and they treat you as any other player at the table, so that’s category one. So, those people aren’t advantageous to you. But the first category that you can work to your advantage is the person who is angry that you are there. It’s their game; it’s a man’s game.

Topic: Poker’s four types of men

Annie Duke: I would say the majority of men fall into the, they just treat you as any other player. But of the people who don’t, of the people who are actually behaving in a chauvinistic way, I would say it’s probably about equally divided between three types. The first I call an angry chauvinist. They are pissed off that you are there. What goes along with that is that the worst thing that could ever happen to them is losing a hand to a woman because that would clearly be castrating them. So, those players have certain ways that they play toward you in order to make sure that you are never outplaying them, which would be the worst thing ever. Like, could you imagine if a woman bluffed that guy? That would be really bad. So, what that means is that those people are going to be trying to bluff you too often because they have to assert their manhood over you, which means they have to outplay you, so they’re going to be playing too many hands against you. They’re going to be playing them too fast; they’re always going to try to be bluffing you. And the other thing is that they’re going to be calling you too often because they want to make sure that you’re never bluffing them. So, obviously, it’s very easy to devise the strategy to counter that.

The next type of person that I call is a disrespecting chauvinist. And that person just doesn’t believe that you could possibly have any imagination. So, the difference between those two is, the angry chauvinist is usually nasty to you at the table. They’re really nasty. They’re the one being like, “Can I look in your hole?” The disrespecting chauvinist is often very nice to you. They come off as a very sweet person, but they don’t have any respect for the female intellect. So what happens is that they think that you don’t have any creativity to your game. If you bet, they assume that you have a hand, and if you check, they assume you don’t. And so, that’s obviously also very easy to come up with a strategy to counteract. It’s really easy. Just bet when you don’t have a hand because they’re going to give you too much credit because they’re going to think that you can’t think more than one level deep.

And then the third type is what I just call the flirting chauvinist. And that guy just wants to sleep with you. And the good news about somebody who just wants to sleep with you is that it would be very counterproductive to their goal to take your money. So, they tend to be very helpful to you at the table. They’ll tell you when they have the best hand and so, they’ll be like, “Don’t call honey, I have a flush.” And it’s like, “Will you show me?” And then they’ll show you. Obviously, that’s a great guy to play with. And what I say to people all the time is again, and the idea is that understand what your goal is at the poker table, which is to come up with the best strategy to most efficiently and precisely take somebody’s chips. I am always willing to flirt with people at a table. That being said, I have never been on a date with a poker player, I’ve never held the hand of a poker player, I’ve never kissed a poker player, none of it. But I’ve done a lot of flirting at the poker table with people who I know are looking for something from me and so I always say, I have given people a lot of hope, but then I suppose I’ve dashed them when it comes down to it.

Recorded on September 30, 2009

From "frigid bitch" to "cunt," Annie Duke is no stranger to name-calling at the table. She’s even classified the men she has met into categories.

Global climate strike: Scenes from the #ClimateMarch protests

The week-long global protest, which is calling for an end to the age of fossil fuels, is taking place in more than 160 countries today.


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Politics & Current Affairs
  • Millions of people around the world are taking to the streets to demand more urgent action on climate change.
  • The protests come just days ahead of the 2019 UN Climate Action Summit.
  • Although it's unclear exactly how many people are participating, it's likely to be the largest climate protest ever.
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How do 80-year-old 'super-agers' have the brains of 20-somethings?

Most elderly individuals' brains degrade over time, but some match — or even outperform — younger individuals on cognitive tests.

Mind & Brain
  • "Super-agers" seem to escape the decline in cognitive function that affects most of the elderly population.
  • New research suggests this is because of higher functional connectivity in key brain networks.
  • It's not clear what the specific reason for this is, but research has uncovered several activities that encourage greater brain health in old age.

At some point in our 20s or 30s, something starts to change in our brains. They begin to shrink a little bit. The myelin that insulates our nerves begins to lose some of its integrity. Fewer and fewer chemical messages get sent as our brains make fewer neurotransmitters.

As we get older, these processes increase. Brain weight decreases by about 5 percent per decade after 40. The frontal lobe and hippocampus — areas related to memory encoding — begin to shrink mainly around 60 or 70. But this is just an unfortunate reality; you can't always be young, and things will begin to break down eventually. That's part of the reason why some individuals think that we should all hope for a life that ends by 75, before the worst effects of time sink in.

But this might be a touch premature. Some lucky individuals seem to resist these destructive forces working on our brains. In cognitive tests, these 80-year-old "super-agers" perform just as well as individuals in their 20s.

Just as sharp as the whippersnappers

To find out what's behind the phenomenon of super-agers, researchers conducted a study examining the brains and cognitive performances of two groups: 41 young adults between the ages of 18 and 35 and 40 older adults between the ages of 60 and 80.

First, the researchers administered a series of cognitive tests, like the California Verbal Learning Test (CVLT) and the Trail Making Test (TMT). Seventeen members of the older group scored at or above the mean scores of the younger group. That is, these 17 could be considered super-agers, performing at the same level as the younger study participants. Aside from these individuals, members of the older group tended to perform less well on the cognitive tests. Then, the researchers scanned all participants' brains in an fMRI, paying special attention to two portions of the brain: the default mode network and the salience network.

The default mode network is, as its name might suggest, a series of brain regions that are active by default — when we're not engaged in a task, they tend to show higher levels of activity. It also appears to be very related to thinking about one's self, thinking about others, as well as aspects of memory and thinking about the future.

The salience network is another network of brain regions, so named because it appears deeply linked to detecting and integrating salient emotional and sensory stimuli. (In neuroscience, saliency refers to how much an item "sticks out"). Both of these networks are also extremely important to overall cognitive function, and in super-agers, the activity in these networks was more coordinated than in their peers.

Default Mode Network

Wikimedia Commons

An image of the brain highlighting the regions associated with the default mode network.

How to ensure brain health in old age

While prior research has identified some genetic influences on how "gracefully" the brain ages, there are likely activities that can encourage brain health. "We hope to identify things we can prescribe for people that would help them be more like a superager," said Bradford Dickerson, one of the researchers in this study, in a statement. "It's not as likely to be a pill as more likely to be recommendations for lifestyle, diet, and exercise. That's one of the long-term goals of this study — to try to help people become superagers if they want to."

To date, there is some preliminary evidence of ways that you can keep your brain younger longer. For instance, more education and a cognitively demanding job predicts having higher cognitive abilities in old age. Generally speaking, the adage of "use it or lose it" appears to hold true; having a cognitively active lifestyle helps to protect your brain in old age. So, it might be tempting to fill your golden years with beer and reruns of CSI, but it's unlikely to help you keep your edge.

Aside from these intuitive ways to keep your brain healthy, regular exercise appears to boost cognitive health in old age, as Dickinson mentioned. Diet is also a protective factor, especially for diets delivering omega-3 fatty acids (which can be found in fish oil), polyphenols (found in dark chocolate!), vitamin D (egg yolks and sunlight), and the B vitamins (meat, eggs, and legumes). There's also evidence that having a healthy social life in old age can protect against cognitive decline.

For many, the physical decline associated with old age is an expected side effect of a life well-lived. But the idea that our intellect will also degrade can be a much scarier reality. Fortunately, the existence of super-agers shows that at the very least, we don't have to accept cognitive decline without a fight.


Millennials and the rise of tiny homes

Are tiny homes just a trend for wealthy minimalists or an economic necessity for the growing poor?

Photo credit: Cyrus McCrimmon / The Denver Post via Getty Images
Politics & Current Affairs
  • The tiny home movement has been popular on social media sites, often portraying an idyllic lifestyle that's cheaper and better for the environment without sacrificing aesthetics.
  • But tiny homes may become the answer to a growing population and growing inequality.
  • As the movement continues to build up steam, one has to wonder whether it's a housing crisis solution with a new coat of paint.

Tiny homes. They're the watchword of the Home & Garden network, at once an Instagrammable, envy-inducing lifestyle and an unfortunate necessity for a generation struck by a recession, historically high inequality, and loans taken out for an ostensibly necessary education that's failed to really net any benefits.

But the question is, which are they? A symbol of a smarter, more environmentally-conscious, humbler generation — or a symbol of one that's had to make do with less than its predecessors? (See: "Millennials buy the things their parents did — but they're much poorer.")

Downsizing housing and hubris

Image source: Mike Morgan / For The Washington Post via Getty Images

Will tiny homes look like this in the future -- smaller and more efficient but still beautiful?

In the U.S., things are just bigger, and houses are no exception. The median size of a single-family home in the U.S. peaked in 2015 at 2,467 square feet. Compared to other parts of the world — particularly Europe — this is a massive figure. There's a variety of reasons for this; one, for example, is that Americans began driving early and often, which transformed the design of their cities and suburbs. Developers could build outside of urban centers where the land was cheaper and more plentiful, enabling bigger houses to be bought.

In addition, the idea of having a lot of space seems to be an appealing one to the former European colonies — where Europeans have often lived in more cramped, repurposed older buildings, Australians, Canadians, and Americans had the opportunity to seize land (despite it already being occupied) and build new, sprawling settlements throughout it. The prosperity that the America saw in the 20th century didn't hurt, either; why not build big if you've got the money to spare?

But a considerable amount of this space is wasted. A UCLA study found that the majority of people spend their time in the kitchen or around the television and very rarely use the living room or porch. As a result of these extra, unused spaces, more resources are wasted on construction, and energy consumption is double what a family would need if their house only had the rooms that they actually use.

Smaller, more energy-efficient houses are appealing to a growing population of minimalists and resource-conscious individuals. In 2017 alone, the sales of tiny homes increased by 67 percent. Coming in at under 400 square feet on average, these houses are also understandably cheap — for tiny homes on wheels, the average cost is $46,300, while those with a foundation cost on average $119,000. As a result, 68 percent of tiny homeowners don't even have a mortgage.

Downsizing out of necessity

Tiny homes

Image source: George Rose/Getty Images

A community of tiny homes for homeless people known as "Nickelsville" in Seattle.

On the other hand, the group of people drawn to tiny homes isn't just homogenously composed of wealthy minimalists looking to reduce their consumption while still appearing trendy. In 70 percent of the U.S., the average worker can't afford a home, one-third of adults are a $400 bill away from financial difficulty, and a quarter have no retirement savings whatsoever.

Under these conditions, downsizing may be the only viable method to survive. Consider, for instance, how cities such as Seattle, Detroit, and Denver are constructing tiny homes as emergency shelters or transitional housing for the homeless. There are also the many retirees that had their savings wiped out by the Great Recession who now live nomadically in RVs and modified vans. This tiny-living trend also has its Instagram cheerleaders, but the reality of it is less idyllic. Journalist Jessica Bruder and author of Nomadland related an anecdote to MarketWatch illustrating the nature of nomadic tiny living:

"I talked to one couple, Barb and Chuck. He had been head of product development at McDonald's before he retired. He lost his nest egg in the 2008 crash and Barb did, too. One time, Barb and Chuck were standing at the gas station to get $175 worth of gas and the horror hit them that their account had $6 in it. The gas station gentleman said 'Give me your name and driver's license and if you write a check, I will wait to cash it.' He waited two whole weeks before he deposited it."

This might become a reality for more people in the future as well. Inequality widens when the rate at which wealth grows — say, your stocks or the price of your house — grows faster than the rate at which wages do. Research suggests that wealth is growing at a breakneck pace, keeping in line with economist Thomas Picketty's prediction of a dramatically inequal future.

Solutions for this will need to be found, and many municipalities or private individuals may find such a solution in constructing tiny homes. Homelessness is a powerful, self-perpetuating force, and having shelter is an obviously necessary step to escape poverty.

Regrettably, if tiny homes are being driven primarily by resource-conscious but fundamentally economically secure individuals, we can expect the trend to remain just that; a trend. In a few years, fewer and fewer tiny houses will be constructed and sold, and eventually there will just be a small contingent of diehard proponents of the lifestyle. If, however, the tiny home trend is being driven primarily by economic inequality, then we can expect it to stick around for a while.