Give me a hand: A night of poker with old friends
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Give me a hand: A night of poker with old friends

Are poker skills correlated with deep insights into the financial markets? I certainly hope not.

There are few things I enjoy more than a game of poker. The old-fashioned camaraderie one gets with a group of like-minded souls, the excitement of another hand that just might turn things around and — let’s be honest — the abundance of beer: they all combine to make a night to remember.

I was lucky enough to join a group of towering financial professionals for poker recently, playing a game with rather amorphous betting rules, plenty of clashes of strong hands, and an eagerness among all concerned to go for the jugular. But sometime early in the game, after studying one foe intently, I figured out his tell.

This old friend, now a bigwig at a foreign insurer, gave a slight clue to the observant player every time he had a big hand. This slight clue being that he smiled so broadly the moonlight flashed off his teeth. He could barely stifle a laugh when the straights and flushes came in, his eyes enraptured with delight.

When I pointed out this particular weakness, he made a clear effort to change his ways. He looked serious and glum, stern and analytical. Had he learned his lesson or simply got a run of bad hands? I soon got my answer.

With a pair of Kings on a rag-tag board, I looked at my friend and saw him working furiously to suppress a smile. He had the appearance of a man at a funeral who had just been told a dirty joke. He could not allow himself to smile, but nor could he quite stop himself.

I trusted my better instincts and folded the hand. He played on, winning an impressive pot with four of a kind. Little wonder he smiled with a hand like that!

The drinks continued to flow and ever more hands were dealt, but your sinful correspondent was only left wanting more. So, gentlemen, when is the next game?

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