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Poker Is Flush With Insight for Traders

Editor's Note: This column by Doug Kass is a special bonus for readers. It appeared on Street Insight on Jan. 24. For more information about Street Insight , please click here .

This weekend I participated in several events at Jack Binion's Gold Strike Casino in Tunica, Miss. -- leading up to the estimated $5 million World Series of Poker, which started Monday.

I did well and managed to pay for my trip, winning a small tournament. But in the end, I decided that my day job should trump playing in the finals (along with about 700 other participants and a first-place prize of about $2 million dollars!), which would have taken most of this week to determine its outcome.

Moreover, after observing Gus Hansen, Phil Ivey, Johnny Chan, Chip Reese, Men "the Master" Nguyen, Sam Farha and Barry "Robin Hood" Greenstein play on table No. 29 for nearly 40 hours straight (and with average pots in the neighborhood of $300,000), I concluded that I had little chance to survive into the final table this Thursday.

It would be like trying to out-trade Stevie Cohen, Stanley Druckenmiller, George Soros and Leon Cooperman!

It was an extraordinary weekend on many different levels, but as always, I want to relate my experiences to the stock market.

Poker and trading/investing hold many similarities, and after spending a brief period of time with the greatest poker player of all time, Doyle "Texas Dolly" Brunson, here are some of the parallels between both activities.

Poker, like trading/investing, is a game of people. In both activities, one needs to get inside the head of one's opponent or the collective head of the masses to be able to consistently win. Importantly, in both venues, one has to know what makes your opponent or the market tick. And one has to know the mood of one's opponent or the psychological condition of investors who set share prices.

Neither poker nor the market can be played purely mathematically or statistically. Many computer programmers have tried to game poker and the stock market, but they have failed, since a program is unable to understand the perception of the moment, as judgment requires a human mind.
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