Page 18 of Vegas Seven has a brief profile of our last Gaming Research Fellow, Dr. Darryl A. Smith.
Don’t tell Darryl A. Smith that Las Vegas isn’t a thought-provoking town. The Bonanza High School graduate has long been fascinated by the tensions just underneath the city’s surface. He channeled his wanderlust into academics, pursuing a degree in philosophy at the University of Nevada, Reno before getting a divinity degree from Harvard and a doctorate in religion from Princeton. His academic work focuses on ethics and language. And recently, he returned home to give a talk at UNLV’s Center for Gaming Research that illuminated some of the connections between poker tells, common-enough in Las Vegas, and several strands of philosophical thought.
Starting with quotes from Jean-Paul Sartre, Ralph Ellison, and Joseph Conrad, Smith related how writers and philosophers through the ages have described hiding things, both physical and cerebral, with excessive light, something that poker players, used to projecting strength when holding weak hands and vice versa, employ ever day. He didn’t just use literary examples, however—he pulled in the lived experience of Las Vegas’ own Westside as an example of a place darkened by surrounding light, and a neighborhood with its own “true names,” sometimes at odds with those on Mapquest.
Smith, an assistant professor of religious studies at Pomona College, drew on his own fieldwork along the alphabet streets conducted while on a resident fellowship at UNLV. And he’s proof that Las Vegas, often derided in the national media as an intellectual wasteland, is capable of producing an academic thinker capable of truly ambitious scholarly work in the same vein as the high-flown theoretical discourse echoing in the halls of the Ivy League.
Professor Smith’s talk is available via UNLV”s Gaming Podcast
Vegas Seven Digital Edition
I can’t find these short pieces on the website, so I cut-and-pasted my original Word document. You can see the article, with a pretty cool picture, in the digital edition for 3/3/11.
It’s two podcasts in two days at the Center for Gaming Research–when it rains it pours, in a good way. Today, I posted the Gaming Research Colloquium talk given this afternoon by Darryl A. Smith:
Darryl A. Smith, Assistant Professor of Religious Studies, Pomona College
“’Dark with Excessive Bright’”: Gambling Tells and the Naming Taboo”
Within sacred language the belief has existed that the personal name is an intrinsic part of oneself. As such, its revelation threatens exposure to powers that might undo its bearer. Smith considers the relation between the detection of tells in gambling and that of so-called true names. Strategies of concealment and detection that are basic to both tell-reading and true-naming are explored in relation to post-colonial theory’s insights into using light in order to hide things.
Listen to the audio file (mp3)
View flyer (pdf)
UNLV Gaming Podcast
It’s a great academic exploration that ties to together literature, poker, and the Westside of Las Vegas, and one of the most enjoyable talks I’ve heard in a while.
I’m pretty excited about the upcoming Gaming Research Colloquium talk that we’re hosting at UNLV:
Please join us at 12:15 PM, Thursday, Feb. 24, as February Gaming Research Fellow Darryl A. Smith delivers a Gaming Research Colloquium talk titled “’Dark with Excessive Bright:’ Gambling Tells and the Gaming Taboo.”
Smith, an assistant professor of religious studies at the Pomona College, will discuss the philosophical commonalities between poker tells and themes in religious and secular writing. Within sacred language the belief has existed that the personal name is an intrinsic part of oneself. As such, its revelation threatens exposure to powers that might undo its bearer. Smith considers the relation between the detection of tells in gambling and that of so-called true names. Strategies of concealment and detection that are basic to both tell-reading and true-naming are explored in relation to post-colonial theory’s insights into using light in order to hide things.
Those interested in poker, philosophy, religious studies, and the literature of gambling are encouraged to attend.
Admission is free and open to the public.
Gaming Research Colloquium: Professor Darryl A. Smith | University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
Here’s why it’s going to be so good: Professor Smith’s background is in religious studies, so we’re getting more of a perspective on poker from the humanities than we usually do. The title, if you don’t recognize it off the bat (I didn’t), is a quote from Milton. Talking with Darryl about his research, the conversation went from John Milton to Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man to Mike Caro and David Sklansky, and it made perfect sense. So he’s not going to tell you how to win more pots, but he will give you a better idea of where poker draws from bigger philosophical concepts. I find that interesting.