Sex Bomb, sex bomb, David Sklansky is your sex bomb, uh huh
After you read this response to what turned out to be a hoax, read this
If you play poker you know who David Sklansky is, but if you don't let me explain a bit. Mr. Sklansky is the author of many seminal (no pun intended, as you may suspect later on) poker texts, including The Theory of Poker,
considered by many the most important poker book ever published, as well as a chapter of Doyle Brunson's classic Super/System
. If you're a serious poker player, you've read Sklansky. Or at least skimmed him.
David can be, at times, a bit prickly (again, no pun intended). I've read a few of his interviews, and he's rather sure of himself. He's also a bit of a snob, just a bit. In A. Alvarez's classic book The Biggest Game in Town
Sklansky tells the author that he studied mathematics at Penn--not Penn State, mind you. Penn, the Ivy League school. As a Nittany Lion alum I took serious umbrage at this. Penn State is an excellent school that needs to make no apologies about its academics. Although they gave me a diploma...
So I'm perhaps a bit predisposed against Mr. Sklansky. But what prompted me to write this little screed was a comment
Sklansky posted on the 2+2 forums, which is his home base on the web. Sklansky and Mason Malmuth's publishing house just issued a new book by Ed Miller about low-limit Hold-Em, and there was some talk on the forums about a debate between Miller and Lee Jones, whose book Winning Low-Limit Hold-Em
I read and enjoyed. Two authors with books about the same subject exchanging ideas. Nice.
Of course things quickly turned nasty, with Sklansky posting a comment where he mentioned about 17 times that Miller is an MIT graduate, which apparently makes everything Miller says or thinks infallible. I should mention that, while Sklansky attended Penn, he never graduated from that fine university, and perhaps he's a bit sensitive about that and overcompensates with snobbery.
But how to explain the comment I linked to above. Rather than have you go back and forth, I'll just post it here. Mucho thanks to Iggy
for pointing this lunacy out in the first place:
That thread where I am a little nasty to Lee Jones. More than 10,000 people have now read it. So its hard not to believe that a little nastiness is the best way to get people to sit up and take notice; and is worth doing if the cause is as important as getting people to study math more (by pointing out that Lee's original book was flawed because of his probable lack of math studiousness.) As I said, I will stop at almost nothing to get my point across. And that point is now read by more viewers than any other thread on this forum. Uh, I just double checked that. Not quite true yet. Which brings me to my other point. How many of you were aware that Marilyn Monroe sought out and had sex with Albert Einstein? And that it was not because of the way he dressed or or played the violin. Also how many of you were aware that there is a correlation between math and testosterone levels. Or that social evolutionary theory postualtes that most young women get PHYSICALLY aroused in the presence of intelligent men. I'm not talking money hungry here. It is rather a physical manifestation due to the awareness that the fellow in question will be a good provider for children. Those women who did not have this physical reaction were likely to have died off as their dumb mates couldn't protect their offspring. Thus the majority of those left, inherited an almost insatiable desire to make love to men who demonstrated knowledge in fields like logic or probability.
Is your jaw up off the floor yet? Are you done laughing? Or cringing?
Okay, where to begin, where to begin...I mean, am I right in thinking that Mr. Sklansky, uh, has some issues here? It's good that he's trying to work them out, it's a good
thing, but in such a public place?
Let's begin at the beginning. Sklansky argues that being rude and nasty to people is A-OK if it gets people to study math more. I've always ascribed to the belief that you can attract more flies with honey than vinegar. Insulting people and belittling their intelligence doesn't seem to be the best way to get people to crack the books. It didn't work for me in Mr. Banks' Algebra II class my senior year, and I don't think it would work with too many other people.
So David thinks getting people to study math is worth ignoring the rules of civilized social conduct. Okay. So...how exactly did that segue into a discussion of Marilyn Monroe screwing Albert Einstein? I mean, I'm not a math whiz, I was an English major, and one thing we learned was how to link ideas together into a coherent whole, so that you don't lose the reader as you go from sentence to sentence, paragraph to paragraph. You don't leave the reader hanging, don't leave him saying, "huh?".
I have no idea why Sklansky brought up this interesting piece of Hollywood/theoretical physics gossip and then ran with it. Don't think I want to know. But is his reasoning sound? Should we give David Sklansky the same respect for his views about the sexual desires of women as we do about poker?
Ha. Ha ha. Tee-hee, even.
Let's start with this tryst between Marilyn and Albert, which I'd never heard about before. Now, Skansky (whose nickname, and this shouldn't come as a huge surprise, is Einstein) finds it significant that perhaps the most famous female sex symbol since Helen of Troy wanted to have sex with perhaps the most intelligent man since Issac Newton. Now, it may have been significant for Al, who probably enjoyed boffing blonde sex goddesses as much as the next non-Nobel-winning guy. But it's hard to argue that it was Einstein's mathematical genius that got MM all hot and bothered. Remember, Marilyn also slept with baseball icon Joltin' Joe DiMaggio; literary giant Arthur Miller; alpha-male political colossuses like Jack and Bobby Kennedy; and (allegedly) mob boss Sam Giancana.
None of the gentlemen listed are primarily known for their mathematical prowess. They are known for being famous and/or powerful, and as famed ladies man Henry Kissenger once said, "Power is the ultimate aphrodesiac". So it might have been Einstein's fame that got Marilyn going, or the fact that he had unlocked the secret of how the universe worked. I don't think Al got Norma Jean in the mood by explaining Special Relativity to her. I don't think that can be considered foreplay under any circumstances, not even at MIT. So the fact that Marilyn Monroe slept with Albert Einsten (if that actually happened) hardly supports Sklansky's case that women instantly get revved up by math whizzes. It's perhaps more interesting to wonder what took Marilyn so long to get around to Einstein, and whether she bothered to get naked or just hiked up her dress to hurry the act along. Wonder if she ever hooked up with Fidel Castro...
So Marilyn Monroe slept around a bit. Our society has rather a double standard about the sexual habits of men and women. A man who sleeps with many different women is called a stud
, and is looked upon with envy by his peers. A woman who sleeps with many different men is called a slut
, and is an object of scorn. Especially if it's your sister everyone's talking about. The idea that women can have sex for their own pleasure is a new one, especially in evolutionary terms. Folks no longer have sex solely for the generation of offspring, unless you're really, really
Catholic. We have sex for fun, for the closeness it brings between two people, and because there's nothing on TV.
But I'll concede the point to Sklansky that there is some primordial urge within Homo sapiens
that drives us to mate. We and chimpanzees share about 99% of the same DNA, and you don't see chimps talking earnestly over cups of rapidly cooling coffee before heading off to a secluded treetop. We've all had those episodes, where you see someone across the room and suddenly feel flushed, your heart racing, an sense of delicious agitation suffusing your body. For women this happens once in awhile, for men it happens 80 or 90 times a day. Or an hour, if you're at the beach.
But what is it about that other person that profound reaction? Let's take the example Sklansky states, a woman becoming aroused by a man. It happens, really. But why? Certainly, there are women who appreciate intelligent men. But how exactly do you determine if a man is intelligent or not? Just standing there it's not always obvious if you're looking at a Ph.D or a People
magazine subscriber, unless, if you follow Sklansky's apparent belief, the guy is wearing an MIT sweatshirt or something.
How can you tell if someone is intelligent? By listening to him speak; by observing his actions; by evaluating his opinions and beliefs; and I'm sure a myriad of other methods. Methods which usually take a good bit of time. You usually can't tell instantaneously if a person is on the ball or a total chowderhead. Maybe he knows a lot about math, but can't tie his shoes. Maybe he's can make that computer sing, but can't tell you how to replace a lightbulb.
"Intelligence", as Sklansky seems to see it, is an all-encompassing attribute. If you're smart, you're smart. But if you argue that evolution makes women desire men who are intelligent because their offspring will have a better shot at survival, what manner of intelligence would these women be looking for? Men who can perform complicated abstract thought, or those who have, for want of a better word, "street smarts"?
Sklansky says that the offspring between women and dumb men wouldn't survive because their dumb mates couldn't protect them. Which is a fair enough point. The big advantage humans have over other species are our big brains, which allow us to think in a (hopefully) more complex way. But what protection would those brains have produced back in those Early Man days? Where to look for potential predators, how best to hunt down prey, and how best shelter and protect themselves from the elements. As evolution molded our ancestors into the humans we are today, I doubt math and statistical skills were all that important. Probably the most sophisticated calculation Caveman Ook had to make was how many swats of his club to the head of Caveman Oop would result in a substance resembling cottage cheese coming out of Oop's ears.
And while your female Neanderthals may have benefitted by mating with those males who proved themselves in some way intelligent, they also would have been wise to mate with males who were bigger, stronger, and faster than the other. Sklansky seems to discount those physical attributes that are so obviously the driving force behind sexual attraction. There are good evolutionary reasons why a female would want to mate with a slope-headed caveman with a totally bitchin' bod. Said well-built caveman would be better able to track down and kill prey; better able to defend her and her offspring from predators and other aggressive males; and, if he was in excellent physical condition, would be far less likely to pass down hereditary diseases and weaknesses to her children.
A woman can tell at a glance if a man has those physical characteristics. That man may be a total idiot, and mating with him may leave her with children who are too stupid to compete with other, more intelligent kids, but it's gonna take her some time to figure that out. It may be an opening line like, "If I said you had a beautiful body, would you hold it against me?" followed by a hyena-like cackle that convinces her that under no circumstances should she mix her DNA with his, or it may take him "forgetting" his wallet on their first dinner date. Still, it takes more time for a man to demonstrate his mathematical or statistical aptitude (or lack thereof) than to show off his biceps and blue eyes.
How did Sklansky come up with this stuff? Perhaps Sklansky's greatest book is his Theory of Poker,
which even the cranky and non-Sklansky-booster Gary Carson called the most important book every written about the game. Sklansky spends a lot of time theorizing about poker, and it's possible that this latest philosophical foray is the result of hundreds of hours of abstract thought. Or, as Iggy
suspects, Sklansky's just getting laid. Is it possible that there are poker groupies, fresh-faced young women who seek out the poker establishment and hope some of that genius rubs off on them? I don't see why not, and if Sklansky is gettin' biz-zay with all sorts of dewy-eyed and pert-breasted young stuff I can only applaud politely and say, "Well done."
But if that's the case his evidence is merely anecdotal, and much as I hate to admit it, I have a lot of anecdotal evidence to indicate that women emphatically do NOT get all hot and bothered by men good at math, logic and probability.
Let's begin with the simple fact that, if it were true that women become sexually aroused by men who display an aptitude for math, every math classroom in the nation would be filled to overflowing. Let's face it--men will just do just about anything to get women to notice them. Yet you see far more guys going out for football than the Math Bowl squad. You don't see guys accessorizing their Armani suits and Sean John ensembles with pocket protectors and Palm Pilots. You don't see guys spending an hour each day doing fifty reps of trigonometry.
Do mega-babe supermodels typically end up on the arm of movie stars or Nobel shortlisted physicists? Has Stephen Hawking ever made People magazine's list of the 50 Most Beautiful People? Has anyone ever described the definition of regression analysis as "pillow talk"?. I think not.
Let me humiliate myself (and my friends) by drawing on some examples from my own delightful experiences with the opposite sex. Over the years I've taken a variety of tests to measure intelligence, from your basic IQ tests to the SAT, GRE, and GMAT tests, and I can say with little fear of contradiction that, so far as cognitive horsepower goes, I'm in the top 5%. While my math scores aren't nearly as high as other subjects, I'm not a total loss. I've taken graduate-level statistics--heck, I've even published an essay
One would expect, according to Sklansky's theory, that I would have had a life verily infested with lusting women impatient for me to impregnate them. Dear reader, let me assure you that this has not been the case. Far from it. So far from it, in fact, as to depress me to the gills.
But perhaps I'm a bad example. Though I'm good at math, and smart in a general sort of way, Sklansky is saying that it's the real braniacs that get women all hot and bothered. Fortunately, I'm friends with a few guys who match Sklansky's requirements. Unfortunately, for them especially, my friends do not bear out his claims.
Take my friend Jim, for instance. If I'm in the top 5%, he's probably in the top 1%, if not higher. I've known Jim since kindergarten (where we were the only two kids who could already read) but you don't need my testimony to confirm he has some robust gray matter. Our high-school valedictorian and the top-ranked chemical engineer the year we graduated from Penn State (need I say that Penn State has outstanding engineering programs?), Jim took a job with a big drug company where he now runs a lab that is researching AIDS treatments. Dude is smart.
And yet, in all the years I've known Jim, I have never seen him mobbed Beatles-style by a posse of horny, shrieking women. I don't think I'm embarassing Jim by revealing that, to the best of my knowledge, he has never been intimate with a Playboy centerfold. During the study hall we shared as high school seniors (where Jim would write up our chemistry homework and I would copy it with all the devotion of a Trappist monk), Jim and I did not have any conversations that went something like this:
Me: Man, you look awful.
Jim: (yawning) I was up till 1AM last night.
Jim: It's the same thing over and over again. I go to bed, and there's a cheerleader sneaking into through my window. Last night there were three of them.
Me: Dude, that's rough. I've gone two whole nights without a gorgeous woman begging me for sex. Got a good eight hours last night.
Jim: (yawning again). Stop bragging.
Let me stress again that no conversation like this ever took place
. And, I daresay, no conversation like this has taken place in the long, messy history of the human species.
There is one simple way to confirm that women don't get fired up by mathetmatical men--ask a bunch of women. But to my mind this seemed like piling on. If I have data to support my point, do I need a statistically significant sample of young women looking at me like I'm a dork after I've asked them "Do you get sexually excited when a man demonstrates an aptitude in math, logic or probability?". I have enough nightmares involving women that I don't need to go out and start looking for new ones.
I think I've proved the point that Sklansky's fundamental premise is, alas, seriously flawed. But does that matter if 'ol Dave is getting regularly laid? Not to him it doesn't. If there IS one overriding theory that governs male attempts to attract the female, it is this: "Whatever works, baby!" Whether its reciting French poetry, zooming by on a motorcycle, flaunting the recent returns in your portfolio, or just declaiming in a loud voice about your gigantic penis, men will do just about anything to attract a female. And, if at first we don't succeed, we'll try, try again. We're adaptable. We're clever. We're desperate.
Demonstrating that you're good at math is just one more arrow in the quiver. To be sure, this is the best time in human history to be good at math: if you're good at math that means you're more likely to make tons of money in computers, finance, or, indeed, poker, and thus attract women who want their offspring to be raised in style. But you think getting 800 on your math SAT means the Olsen twins will be calling to see if you want to do some calculus while relaxing in a sudsy bubble bath? Don't count on it.