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SALT LAKE CITY -- A poker playing professor from Utah State University is making his way through the rounds at the 2009 World Series of Poker.
John Seiter teaches communications at USU, but he also teaches a class on persuasion--he's even written a book about it. He says that's the skill and expertise that has helped him best in the poker world.
"High stakes, no-limit poker is more about playing the people, rather than playing the cards," he explains, saying poker can very much be a mind game.
The tournament will continue through July 15 in Las Vegas. Once it's down to the final nine players, the tournament is put on hold until November, basically so ESPN can promote and televise the finals.
Seiter made it through the first round of his group of 1,015 players by placing 48th. He's confident, but not overly so.
He said, "As any poker player knows, that can all be gone in one hand if you play it wrong."
What's his secret? The ability to read the poker faces of his opponents. Seiter says he teaches his students to be able to tell when they're being told the truth and when someone is trying to hide the truth from them. Seiter says many players stiffen when they're bluffing, as if they are afraid they will give something away if they move at all.
Far more dangerous are the players who know how to play the people. "The pro players, they'll do what are called reverse tells," Seiter says. "They might be thinking, 'Oh, this person thinks I'm bluffing if I behave this way, so I have a really strong hand and I'm going to do that so they think I'm bluffing.' So you have to be careful of those players. They're tricky."
How Seiter got into the World Series was a bit of a gamble itself. He says people can either buy their way into the tournament with $10,000, or they can do what he did - pay to play a smaller tournament for $150 or $300, where the winner gets an automatic bid into the big dance.
He did that and lost. But he was playing slots with his wife and happened to win enough money to try again in a different tournament, where he won his place in the World Series.
You can find out more about Professor Seiter and his classes at USU here.