The Two Things About Poker

I was in a coffeeshop a few weeks ago browsing the internet, when I came across this article by Glen Whitman called “The Two Things.” In it, he recounts the story of the Two Things.

A few years ago, I was chatting with a stranger in a bar. When I told him I was an economist, he said, “Ah. So… what are the Two Things about economics?”

“Huh?” I cleverly replied.


“You know, the Two Things. For every subject, there are really only two things you really need to know. Everything else is the application of those two things, or just not important.”

“Oh,” I said. “Okay, here are the Two Things about economics. One: Incentives matter. Two: There’s no such thing as a free lunch.”

Ever since that evening, I’ve been playing the Two Things game. Whenever I meet someone who belongs to a different profession (i.e., a profession I haven’t played this game with), or who knows something about a subject I’m unfamiliar with, I pose the Two Things question.

He then goes on to compile some interesting “Two Things” that people have come up with about their respective fields. Many of them were poignant, insightful, and a few of them were quite amusing.

The Two Things about English Literature:

  1. The text is really about writing.
  2. Writing is really about sex. -Marya

The Two Things about World Conquest:

  1. Divide and Conquer.
  2. Never invade Russia in the winter. -Tim Lee

So I thought to myself—well, I’m supposed to be an expert on poker. What are its Two Things? To work well, they’re supposed to be two principles of thought from which you could potentially derive all of poker theory. Every piece of strategy should boil down to these two principles. I thought about it for some time, and decided, if I were to try to simplify all of poker play and theory into two principles, it’d be these:

The Two Things about Poker:

  1. Every piece of information narrows down handranges

  2. People are bad at being random

You could surely invent other “Two Things” about more specific subjects such as live poker, tournaments, heads up, variance etc. This was just my first take on it. If any of you guys have ideas as to what you think are the Two Things about poker, leave a comment—I’d love to read them.

Until next time,

[Note: this is adapted from an article I originally wrote in 2010, but I liked it enough that I wanted to clean it up and post it on here. Hope you dig it.]
January 22 2014
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Managing Partner at Dragonfly Capital. Effective Altruist. Airbnb, (acquired by Coinbase) alum. Instructor @ Bradfield. Writer. Former poker pro. Donate 33% of my income to charity.

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