How I won much more than just a poker tournament by winning a WSOP bracelet

As a rational person, I refuse to believe in fate or destiny; however, this summer has certainly tested my beliefs. Let me share my story with you.

Unlike the majority of poker players, I discovered REG and effective altruism away from the tables. It was only a couple months ago that my interest was piqued when I saw “The Most Good You Can Do” on the bookstore bookshelf. I was familiar with the author, Peter Singer, and after being so struck by the title, I immediately sat down with the book and began reading. It wasn’t long before Peter Singer mentioned the contributions of Phillip Gruissem and REG. As a poker player, it’s always pleasantly surprising when poker gets a mention in popular media (they are quite rare), and a positive one at that! Coincidentally, this was the last book that I was able to read before departing for Las Vegas and the World Series of Poker.

In one of the first events that I played, I had the good fortune to sit with two individuals who were well versed with the EA movement. One of these two, Louie Helm, has become a good friend of mine, and he was anxious to share his thoughts on and experience with REG specifically and EA/rationalist philosophy more generally. I asked him if I could get more involved, and he offered to get me a patch if I pledged 2% of my cashes during the summer. “Sure,” I said. “But what’s 2% of zero?” I chuckled. Poker players are a self-deprecating lot.

Well, here I am, a few weeks later, with 6 cashes for $550k and a gold bracelet. Life can be funny sometimes. I’ve gotten a lot of questions since I won the $10k HORSE, but the one that has been asked the most is probably “How does it feel?” In spots like these, I’ve always made a concerted effort not to sound cliché. So here is my answer: I feel like I won more than a poker tournament; I feel like I won a voice. For a few minutes, I get the opportunity to speak about some of the things that are important to me and for the first time ever, I get an audience.

What now? Well, it seems like we all have a checklist to work through.

  • Educate yourself. Read up on effective altruism and make sure you understand it and find the arguments compelling
  • Discuss it with others. In my humble opinion, effective altruism isn’t the best way to do charity – it’s the only way. So if we accept EA, it’s essential that we ensure that more people think critically about their charitable donations.
  • Give. Give as much as you can. I’m a believer in practicing what one preaches and having skin in the game, and I hope that my $50k Matching Challenge demonstrates that I truly believe this.

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