Monday, February 16, 2015

Dr. Aaron Duncan on Pokernews

In advance of the publication of Dr. Aaron Duncan's new book, Gambling with the Myth of the American Dream (Routledge, 2015), Pokernews just published an op-ed written by Duncan.

A brief excerpt:

The ability of professional poker players to understand, tolerate, and manage risk makes them role models for entrepreneurs in a system where those skills are vital to economic success and survival. Poker is, after all, the most capitalistic of card games. I contend that poker is therefore the best metaphor for our modern economy. 
Survival in the modern economy relies on one's ability to tolerate and manage. The new "American Dream" is less concerned about hard work and social virtue and more concerned with the acquisition of wealth. Poker is a fascinating game, but it has never been concerned with the promotion of social welfare. Poker did not cause these changes to the American Dream. Indeed, its popularity reflects larger changes in American culture and the growth of the risk society. From worries about the stock market, mortgages and job layoffs to foreign wars, global warming and terrorism, contemporary American culture is dominated by the discussion of risk. 
Myths are the stories a culture uses to establish group identity and purpose. They help us make sense of the world and teach us values and morals. The traditional myth of the American Dream featured as its main character the "self-made man." The self-made man — the concept that any person can be successful through hard work, virtue and talent — is rooted in America's Puritan heritage and continues to shape American thought. However, the character of the self-made man has changed. I believe that the popularity of poker signals a changing American culture that is increasingly accepting of risk and focused on acquiring wealth. At the center of this latest version of the American Dream is a new kind of hero, a poker player. 
No player's journey from rags, or rather middle class, to riches better represents this new telling of the story than Chris Moneymaker. In the telling of his story, the Protestant work ethic with a desire for quick gains, social, and individual virtue are replaced by a warlike mentality that encourages deception and misinformation. Success depends more on luck and less on hard work. When the self-made man becomes the self-made poker player the fundamental values at the center of the myth of the American Dream are changed.
As they say, read the whole thing!