Poker playing professor
JAMIE EDDY | FEATURE EDITOR | THE USD VISTA
For those of you who frequent the Shiley Center for Science and Technology or study chemistry or biochemistry, you’re most likely familiar with Professor James Bolender. If you’re also the type of student who likes to get to know your professors through visiting office hours or talking after class, you may be aware of something about Professor Bolender that most students don’t know: he is an extremely impressive poker player.
Bolender is originally from Lindenhurst, Illinois. He spent his undergraduate years at Wittenberg University in Springfield, Ohio and then went on to complete graduate school at the University of Virginia. He finally ended up at University of San Diego in 1996 and has been here ever since, becoming the Director of Honors for science majors from 2006-2008.
“Even though I’m from the East Coast, San Diego has become my home,” Bolender said. “My daughter now attends USD and my son is currently attending school at Palomar College.”
San Diego is also the place where his poker interests began. As a young kid, Bolender enjoyed playing cards, and in high school his group of friends had the occasional poker night. However, during his years in San Diego, specifically in 2003, is when the frequent playing started. He initially began watching poker on television and realized that he could possibly be successful at it. Much of his skill set and practice comes from participating in an online gambling organization, which allowed him to enjoy the game as a personal hobby.
Bolender ended his period of online poker playing in 2008, and turned to a new group of male acquaintances and continued to play in a local league. He did very well and eventually went on to participate in the World Series of Poker in 2012. Out of 2,500 participants, he finished in 72nd place.
On top of his many successes, he believes that there are several mental benefits of poker.
“When a lot is on the line, there is something about taking it seriously and getting your mind to do the math,” Bolender said.
He also believes there are many other benefits involving real life social situations and decision making.
“Poker is relatable to game theory and asking the questions like, ‘Is this a good investment?’” Bolender said. “It involves a large amount of reasoning skills and being able to read people which can be beneficial in the political world as well.”
For students that may want to get involved with poker, Bolender advises to not play for money until they have learned and received an adequate amount of experience. In addition, he believes that the game can help students to learn about life in the real world, as well as give them the chance to deal with decision making under stressful conditions.
Poker often times brings with it a certain gambling stigma that isn’t always seen in a positive light. However, it is important to look at this game from an alternative perspective. Boldener does just that. He legitimizes the game and successfully shows that Poker can have many beneficiaries that are often overlooked. A few of these benefits include neurological stimulation, mathematical skills, and the ability to read someone else’s thoughts through their nonverbal expressions.
To learn more about this impressive poker playing professor, consider taking one of Bolender’s classes in an upcoming semester. Who knows? Maybe you’ll learn a few new poker tips, too.