World Series Poker Theorist

By JoAnne Hewett | August 10, 2006 1:45 am

We’ve finished with the World Cup and the big bike race across France. We’re in anticipation for the Fall season of baseball with the playoffs and world series. But, in between, is a lessor known sporting event – the World Series of Poker. The final game will be played Thursday 10 August, and one of the 9 finalists in that game is a genuine particle theorist! It’s Michael Binger who was a graduate student here at SLAC, studying under Stan Brodsky, and defended his thesis just a couple months ago. I was on his committe and can say that he did a fine job. And on Thursday he is playing at the final table at the World Series of Poker. He is coming into the final table ranked 8 out of 9 (apparently 9 people sit at the final table) with a pile of chips worth over $3 million.

This is the World Series of Poker, No-Limit Texas Hold-em Championship. Within poker circles, this is the big event. About 8700 people entered the contest, buying in with $10,000 of tournament chips, each. These 8700 card-playing studs battled it out several weeks until 9 super-players were left. Those 9 will battle it out for the championship on Thursday. And a particle theorist – from Stanford – has amassed over $3 million in chips and thus cracked the top poker playing circle. Eat your heart out Sean!

Michael Binger worked on physical renormalization schemes with applications to grand unification and split supersymmetry here at SLAC under the guidance of Stan Brodsky. Essentially, they have a unique method of describing the running of the strong coupling constant (i.e., how it changes with the energy scale it is being measured at) and found a number of qualitative differences and improvements in precision over conventional approaches when applied to calculations within grand unification theories. It’s interesting work and I’m glad somebody took a look at it.

It seems that Michael is somewhat of a novelty in the poker circles due to his physics PhD. He’s been interviewed and quoted as saying:

Michael Binger hopes to continue doing research in physics without having to run the rat-race of getting a job and impressing all the right people as he puts it. A win here at the World Series of Poker Main Event would definitely give him the freedom to do pretty much anything he wants.

I’ve never followed the world series of poker before, but now I’m rooting for a rising star and a genuinely nice person. GO, BINGER GO!!!

Update: Michael Binger finished in third place! His winnings totalled $4.123 million. He was eliminated in hand #229 at 3 AM PDT, after more than 12 hours of play. He had an Ace-10 suited pair in his hand and with a hand like that he understandably bet the store. For more details on the hand, please see Sean’s comment below (#20). All of us here at SLAC give him our heartiest congratulations!! Rumor has it he will be stopping by on Monday!

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