Preposterous Universe

Thursday, October 21, 2004
All-In for Kerry

Normally I pride myself on being more of an idea person than a man of action. Action can be exhausting, after all. But sometimes circumstances force you to move against your natural inclinations. So, recently Chris Lackner and I combined two of our favorite activities -- poker and Bush-bashing -- into a small but rewarding fundraising event for the Kerry campaign. We held a No-Limit Texas Hold'Em tournament, with proceeds going to the campaigns in Midwest battleground states.

Physicists constituted a minority of the participants -- only four of the sixteen -- but dominated in the late stages, including three of the top four finishers. Must be that special combination of mathematical wizardry and deep psychological insight that makes people successful in both science and poker. In a tense showdown stretching into the late hours of the evening, string theorist Jeff Harvey defeated cosmologist Risa Wechsler to take first place. (And they say that string theorists are disconnected from the real world.)

How often do you get to see a picture of internationally renowned theoretical physicists staring each other down over a flop? The role of the button (indicating the dealer) was played by a small Albert Einstein action figure. Note also the abundance of alcoholic beverages -- well-known to increase one's poker skills.

So we raised a little money and had a lot of fun. These events are also good because they give people a feeling of being involved in the process; empirically, anyone who goes to a fundraiser is more likely to actually vote on Election Day. (Hopefully, even if they didn't do well in the tournament.)

Ideas on culture, science, politics.
Sean Carroll

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