Polling guru Nate Silver talks about a very bad night of poker
[Q.] You used to make some good money off of online poker, but you write in the book that at the end of 2006, you lost $75,000, “most of it in one horrible evening.” What the hell happened? I’m picturing this night as an absolute disaster.
[A.] Well, I was playing games where you’re betting $200 per betting round, so you start to make [laughs] some bad decisions and kind of go on tilt a little bit, and those losses add up. But poker, I played limit hold ‘em, which is actually a really swingy game, you have a really small edge. So if you’re off your game even a little bit — and frankly, that night, I was probably off by more than a little bit — then you’re probably a favorite to lose money. And if you’re just tilting then you’re a favorite to lose a lot of money. But poker does teach you some life lessons. It seemed for a while when the games were easy, you’re just kind of there and clicking buttons and printing money, right? But usually the free lunch scenario comes to an end, in a terribly abrupt way for me, although I was smart enough not to lose all my winnings. I kind of took the hint after I lost about a third of what I won and said, “Okay, I’m going to cash out and start writing about politics and burritos now instead.”