Poker Shark Doctor

| February 6, 2020 | 0 Comments | Email This Post Email This Post

Poker Player for a DoctorSharks And Fish At The Poker Table

By Andy Asher

In the world of poker, sharks are on the lookout for a fish. The documentaries show sharks as outstanding hunters in the ocean and the poker table too. When Dr. James Magner at age 68,  first sauntered up to a poker table back in 2007 the poker sharks smelled a fish nearby.

But before we going any further, the good doctor tells us that this is the first time in recorded human history that a wife has guided her husband into a poker room and asked him to learn to play poker.

After all, he had never played before but he was armed with a valuable skill, some book learning and his wife’s insistence to play.

Dr. Magner says, “Let me give a little explanation. I’m not a gambler at all. I’m a scientist. I’m a physician and a scientist. And I’ve always been very good at math.”

“I knew nothing about it, right? Yeah. So I had seen it on cable TV. Yeah. Back in those days, they would have it occasionally on cable TV, but I didn’t know how to play. You get it. I could see that there were some statistics and math.”

“So I walked up with my chips. You can imagine this is actually what I said. They’re all these guys sitting at the table. I said I don’t know how to play, but I have one hundred dollars in chips. They said I’ll just sit.”

Where it All Began to Play Poker

That’s how his playing days started. He had access to two big casinos in Connecticut. “And if I would be driving by on an errand near one of the casinos, I would stop in and play a cash game.” It’s a type of a game of no-limit hold’em where you can start and stop anytime you want. You could play for five minutes or you could play for twelve hours. You would pay your money and then you have to stay sometimes for hours until you get knocked out of the tournament. You can’t just come and go as you want. “So that was a commitment that I would go on a Saturday, let’s say, and be there all day.”

I liked the tournament since it’s a little bit different strategy. Around 2013 I was getting better and getting pretty good. And I won thirty-two thousand dollars. Getting good was no accident and James discovered there are some lessons. The most important thing is that you can’t learn poker just by playing to get experience because you could win accidentally by doing the wrong thing. By experience, you have to get good books and study the game so you try to always make the right type of bet, the right size of the bet and so on. And then even if you lose on that one hand, you’ll know that you did the right thing.

“So as I began to win some money at poker, starting with that thirty-two thousand and in 2013, I felt comfortable spending some of the winnings to play more poker.”

The Big Wins

Jumping forward two years James talks about his big wins. “In 2015, I won a quarter of a million dollars in Las Vegas. So that put me way ahead.” He figures today his total winnings are approaching $400 million. He says, “I play about once a month in a tournament in Connecticut. And I try if my schedule allows to go to Las Vegas every July to play in the World Series of Poker.”

Dr. Magner is generous enough to pass on some advice to young people who get involved in poker and play hours and hours. That will give you practical experience but they have to be reading books to study the game. There is very important tricks about bets, sizing, squeeze plays and many other ways to properly calculate, knowing the rules of thumb of how to do a very quick math calculation of probability without going through all the complicated calculations. And if you know these rules of thumb, you can play quickly and instantly make very quick judgments about the math you are a long way to becoming a successful poker player. But then there’s more than the math. There are other factors as well.

Magner tells his story of poker and other tales of life in a new book, Seeking Hidden Treasures: A Collection of Curious Tales and Essays. It’s available at and the usual places. In one of the stories, he spices up the life of a poker player with some romance and crime in Las Vegas. All the romance and crime are fiction. But the poker is technically accurate.



Tags: , , , ,

Category: Articles