Campus News

A Game of Strategy

December 22, 2015
Lisa Gulasy
Students play poker
Photo credit: Rand Zalzala

If there’s one thing fourth-year jazz studies and politics double-major Zach Resnick wants you to know about poker, it’s this: Poker is a game of strategy. Resnick touted this message in Oberlin this semester by teaching the ExCo Intro to No Limit Hold ’Em Poker.

Zach at the poker table, with a microphone clipped to his shirt
Zach Resnick on the Poker on Air set. Photo Courtesy of Poker on Air

Resnick first started playing poker with friends when he was a young teen. Two summers ago, he played live poker as a full-time job. He says he created the ExCo to offer friends and anyone else who may be interested in studying poker the opportunity to do so with an experienced player. “I usually teach one-on-one. The few times I taught a group, I really enjoyed the challenge. I had a lot of friends here who wanted to learn about poker, so I threw out the idea of starting an ExCo. People were really receptive to it,” he says.

Junior voice major India Rowland, who had little previous experience playing poker, enrolled in the ExCo. “I had this grand scheme where I would be in my 30s and be really smart about poker. I would invite my friends over who didn’t know I could play and I would say, ‘I have this poker set, why don’t we play?’ And I would take all of their money,” she laughs.

While this perception of poker is common—that is, a means to make a quick buck—it is not what the game is about, Resnick says. “Most people associate poker with gambling because it’s played in a casino, but poker is a strategic game like chess. There is luck in the short term, but it takes a lot of hard work to become an elite player,” he says.

India Rowland at the Poker on Air set
India Rowland at the Poker on Air set. Photo Courtesy of Zach Resnick.

After completing the ExCo, Rowland agrees. “Being a good poker player is not a luck thing. It’s not about being the best bluffer or that kind of thing. It’s really about being thoughtful. If you don’t have a reason for why you’re making a move, you’re not thinking enough.”

Five of the Intro to No Limit Hold ’Em Poker students put their new skills to the test on December 11 when they traveled to Akron to play for Poker on Air, which webcasts and broadcasts live poker games. Resnick and his friend Jack Laskey provided commentary. “I think the evening overall went well,” Resnick says. “Some students disappointed me with their quality of play, while others seriously impressed me.” Junior politics major Oliver Bok, who Resnick calls a “strong student,” was the evening’s overall winner. You can watch the entire evening broadcast on this webpage.

While Resnick says he does not plan to teach an introduction to poker ExCo again next semester, he offers private lessons to students in Cleveland and Oberlin. He also encourages aspiring poker players to tune into his newly launched podcast, Just Hands Poker, which is co-hosted by Laskey.

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