Political analyst and writer Nate Silver was a whisker away from winning a World Series of Poker bracelet on Sunday night.
The statistician has won fame and plaudits for predicting election outcomes. But one outcome he failed to forecast was his opponent John Monnette’s dramatic comeback to clinch the Limit Hold’em Championship.
Still, Silver took home $152,000 for second place after holding the upper hand against Palmdale, Calif. pro Monnette for much of heads-up play.
Monnette, a mixed-games specialist, won $245,680 and his fourth bracelet for besting the 92-player field.
Poker to Politics
Silver has built a media empire on his aptitude for statistics, so it’s little wonder he can cut it at the poker table.
In fact, before he became a big deal in political polling, he briefly earned a living playing online poker in the early 2000s. He even featured in a 2004 Chicago Tribune article examining the new phenomenon of online poker players.
Still, the Michigan native had his work cut out over the weekend at a WSOP final table that included top pros like Jason Somerville, John Racener and Terence Chan.
Around the time Silver was grinding online poker tables almost 20 years ago, he also was developing PECOTA (Player Empirical Comparison and Optimization Test Algorithm). This was a statistical system, beloved of fantasy baseball players, that forecast the future performance of baseball hitters and pitchers.
Next, he turned his attention to the political arena. Writing under the pseudonym “Poblano,” he launched the FiveThirtyEight blog. Silver was frustrated by the limitations of conventional analysts and sought to shed new light on politics by analyzing its quantitative aspects for a wider audience.
In 2008, Silver predicted 49 outcomes of 50 states in the US presidential election. In 2012, he predicted all 50.
Nailing the 2008 election changed his life. After that came the book deals and TV appearances, and in 2009, he was named one of the World’s Most Influential People by Time Magazine.
Silence and the Noise
His first book, 2012’s The Silence and the Noise – Why So Many Predictions Fail but Some Don’t was a New York Times Best Seller. It examined how data and probability are used – and misused – in everything from forecasting climate change to an economic downturn.
The Silence and the Noise also devoted a chapter to poker, and it appears that Silver is revisiting the game in a new book he’s writing which deals with the mindset of a successful gambler.
Silver told Card Player on Sunday his experiences at the WSOP have proven to be valuable (and lucrative) research.
“I’ve met people like Jason Somerville, who I talked to in my book, and now I’ve played a bunch of tournaments with him in this last week,” he said. “You get more ingrained in the community if you’re not just an outsider, but actually a participant.”
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