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Immigration Explains US Poker Dominance

15 October 2009, By: Charlie River

Poker writer James McManus mentions an interesting theory on the connection between immigration and poker skills. It could explain the US dominance in poker.

In short, the theory goes like this:

People who decide to leave their homeland to go after a better life in unknown territory carry a gene that promotes risk taking, intelligence and decision making.

This “migration gene” is what makes these people break up, and it also gives them the upper hand at the poker table.

The US was built by immigrants, and so the migration gene is over-represented in the national gene pool.

The presence of this gene might even be the defining factor of an American DNA.

What do you think about poker and immigration? I think the theory sounds about as strong as a 16 cards nut draw in PLO.

PS: Here’s a longer quote from McManus’s article What Poker Can Teach Us, from The Chronicle of higher Education:

"Geneticists have shown that there is literally such a thing as American DNA, not surprising when nearly all of us are descended from immigrants. We therefore carry an immigrant-specific genotype, a genetic marker expressing itself—in some environments, at least—as energetic risk-taking and competitive self-promotion. Even when famine, warfare, or another calamity strikes, most people stay in their homeland. The self-selecting group that migrates, seldom more than 2 percent, is disproportionally inclined to take chances. They also have above-average intelligence and are quicker decision makers. Something about their dopamine-receptor systems, the neural pathway associated with a taste for novelty and risk, sets them apart from those who stay put."

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  • Jim McManus 15/10/2009 3:15pm (12 years ago)

    Hi Charlie. I love how you've followed up on my piece, and I look forward to your thoughts about Cowboys Full. Keep up the good work. Jim