Crowd Size and Political Viability

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S1: The following program may contain language that is explicit and by explicit, I mean implicitly, not your words.

S2: It’s Monday, June 22nd, twenty twenty from Slate, it’s the gist. I’m Mike Pesca. White House trade adviser Peter Navarro appeared on CNN State of the Union yesterday, and he seemed content to turn that appearance into his own super spreader event. The quality of the compost he was spreading was quite obvious.

S3: I know we had second stage for our mom tongue and he said similar things for months.

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S2: Tongue in cheek swab and nasal passage. Here was the statement that Navarro said. You probably heard it already said was tongue in cheek.

S4: Would you do testing to that extent? You got to find more people. You got to find more cases. So I shake my people slogan testing down, please.

S2: Host Jake Tapper bear down, not quite understanding the sarcasm. And Navarro countered by advising Tapper on how to conduct his interview. He suggested the right things to talk about.

S5: What’s important going on in this world today are things like John Bolton Lake publishing a book.

S2: He told Tapper what question to ask. Jake, you should be asking this question. You should ask. He narrowed down the subjects. He suggested that Tapper pursue. I asked you a question about CDC says yes. He suggested that Tapper avail himself of the opportunity to tap into Peter Navarros ability to see the future.

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S5: Asked me example of what’s going to happen on Thursday.

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S2: We’re going if Tapper was tempted to ask Navarro about his soothsaying or at least his familiarity with a day planner. Tapper did not let on. Still, Navarro is intent. The Tapper not lose out on his special special opportunity to ask questions to him. Peter Navarro is from the funeral.

S6: You’re missing a great opportunity here. You’re talking as a trade viajes manufacturing. I can talk about a lot of things.

S2: Indeed, he did talk about Chinese conspiracies and his definition of lightheartedness.

S5: All right. We’re 60 seconds into India, tongue in cheek thing, ask and answered.

S2: I think I think more than 60 seconds. Here’s a question. How come President Trump is just so much funnier than FDR who never made lighthearted comments about the two thousand five hundred Americans killed on D-Day? How come George W. Bush didn’t crack wise about the 3000 dead on 9/11? Even if Donald Trump was kidding? How is a pandemic that has killed 220000 Americans? More Americans dead than the Korean or Vietnam wars combined with World War One? How is that funny? What is his understanding that eludes me? That alludes. Jake probably alludes you about the hilarity of 220000 Americans dead. I mean, I guess, Mr. Navarro, you have a sense of humor. I don’t understand that this was a joke. A joke is what we’re Eric Trump’s three hardest years second grade. That’s a joke. The tongue in cheek reference to hundreds of thousands of Americans dead doesn’t seem like a joke. Doesn’t play like a joke. I don’t think he was serious. I think he was trying to make a joke. Why? But alas, that was not on the Peter Navarro suggested questions list. And so we all went without truly knowing. The hell is wrong with our president. On the show today, that Tulsa event without the big crowds.

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S1: What’s it all mean? But first, Maria kind of Kova has been on the show many, many times as a special guest of the show playing the branded segment. Is that bullshit? But she has also written a wonderful new book about her time, her years recently, her experiment becoming a professional poker player. Maria Konnikova, author of The Biggest Bluff Pop, next. From time to time, Maria Konnikova comes by to play, is that bullshit? This is not one of those times. Joining me now is Dag Hammarskjold, the third. No, Maria is here. It will be funny if that’s why it wasn’t one of those times. It just not Maria. It is Maria. She is not here to debunk or examine a scientific claim. She is here to talk about her new book, Her Magnum Pocus The Biggest Bluff How I Learned to Pay Attention, Master Myself and When It’s the time that Maria became a poker pro. It’s a great book and I’m so glad she joins me. She’s Dean to join me. Hello, Maria. How are you?

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S3: Hey, Meg. I’m doing just fine. Very happy to be here.

S2: I had heard many of these stories along the way, but I got to say, reading them altogether in one form was extremely satisfying.

S3: Well, I’m very happy to hear that.

S1: So people who have heard you over the years on our show know that you are you. You’re a trained psychologist. You’re a doctor. You’re a doctor, right? I am a doctor. You’re a doctor. You talk about defending your thesis and stuff. And so obviously, there’s a huge, interesting psychological component to poker. And that has to be one of the biggest drivers for. What made you fascinated with the game. What else was it, though?

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S3: So for me, it was definitely psychology, but it was also the game theory. It was also this ability to use a game environment that’s much kind of cleaner than life. It doesn’t have as many factors. It doesn’t have all of this noise that we have in daily decision making. You know, I wish that I had known something about poker when I was doing my graduate work because what I did at Columbia was studied decision making and decision making under risk and uncertainty and hot emotional conditions. And I had to make up all of these studies and have like make up these games and use games that other people had made up. And had I just known that poker was available to me. Well, all of a sudden, I don’t need to make anything up. You have just this perfect tool for looking at, you know, how do people react to losing? How do they react to winning? When do they act rationally? When do they let emotions seep through? How do you react? You know, how do you react if you put them under time, pressure and make them make decisions faster than they have to do? How did they react when someone else is being very aggressive? When someone else is being passive? How do they adjust? How do they just make take all of these different components of decision making and how do they react to them? It’s just such a great testing ground.

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S7: So therefore, if someone is a good poker player, not someone who got lucky once or even got on a winning streak once, but someone who year after year can either grind out or bluff out or just be in the money at poker. You might assume that that person, he I’ll say he is usually he would have the abilities and skills to be very successful at navigating the world and other people. And you find let’s just put it this way of the people you talk about in the book, some are, but a lot aren’t.

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S3: This is true. This is true. So poker gives you all of the tools you need, but then it’s up to you to realize what it’s giving you and to use it. Think one of the things that really helped me is that I came to poker from the outside, you know, as someone who knew that I was doing this for something else, who was constantly paying attention to myself in a very metacognitive way. I was thinking about how I was thinking, and I had my psychology background to give me a vocabulary for it. Now, I could be like, oh, you know, there’s hindsight bias. There’s the sun cost fallacy. There’s this. There’s that. And it helped me process it and actually get life lessons from it. And they’re players like that, like my mentor, Eric Cyto. He’s definitely that way. Sure, he might not know the names of some of the biases, but he is someone who’s very thoughtful about everything. And he takes that thoughtfulness to poker. And then he lets that feedback into his life. And he has a wonderful life. You know, he’s been married for over 30 years. He has two amazing daughters. He has a really good balance. And he’s never gone broke. And he does not like people who take pleasure and think that it’s some badge of honor that. Oh, yeah, I have gone bust three times or four times or whatever it is. The way he says it is, you know, you never know if you’re going to come back from night, manage your money to begin with. It was one of the first things he taught me. Bankroll management, you know, do not play higher than you can afford to lose. So he’s someone who’s very good at that. But a lot of players, they just don’t care. And they’re almost like two people. They can be very logical and wonderful at the poker table. But then they just they leave that at the table because they like, you know, living like a high roller. They like spending more than they are. And they like this. They like that. And oftentimes they go broke and they end up being people whose names you’ll never hear again.

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S7: Yeah. And when you say that, Eric, when you praise. Eric and say that Eric Seidel has really successful life, maybe a lot of people will hear, well, yeah. I mean, let’s you could look at his lifelong winnings and that’s what’s publicly acknowledged. He’s probably won many multiples of that in cash games and say, wow, with that kind of money, I have a life, too. But the reason that he has this great life and that he has this order, I think it’s related to why he’s good at poker, is he’s kind of prioritize the things that are important to him. And he’s much more interested in new music or theater or he’s kind of intellectually identified the things that are meaningful to him and pursued those things and has used poker to get there, but also found meaning in poker. It’s kind of amazing and kind of awesome that he took you on as a mentee.

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S3: Absolutely. I just happened to choose him because of, you know, because I saw that he had won a lot of money and that he’d been good for a long time. And also he was the guy with the visor and rounder’s, so, you know, slamdunk. Let’s get let’s get this guy. And I had no idea at the time because he is a very private person. I didn’t know that he, you know, would teach me more about music and theater than I’d ever known that he would just be interested in life on on that level. But I got so lucky that that Erica’s Eric and that he agreed to work with me because he truly loves poker. He doesn’t play it because he thinks he’s going to get rich quick. He plays it because he thinks it’s a beautiful game, because it’s a game that lets him explore decision making. It’s a game that lets him become better. For him, it’s about the process. And he actually told me at one point that the goal of poker isn’t to make money, because if that’s your goal, you’re not going to be a good player. You’re going to make the wrong decisions because you’re motivated by financial gain. You have to learn to love the process, to love the game for itself. And he does. And he’s passionate about it and he’s passionate about life that way. So he has such wonderful balance. He’s able to be competitive at the highest levels and also know to take time to go to London and see the shows in the West End and do this and do that. And it all feeds into each other. I think his love of life makes him a better poker player. And the fact that he loves poker makes him better at life.

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S1: Yeah. So poker to the layman is bluffing. No, no. I say what about bluffing? In fact, the title of your book, The Biggest Bluff, does have a nod to bluffing. But even the word poker, the game of poker comes from. Right. It’s etymology is about bluffing.

S3: Yes, absolutely. From Pocan in German to bluff.

S1: So here’s my question. You thoroughly went about this as you are want to do, and you found that facial bluff’s don’t mean much.

S7: But there are people doing studies on what is a tell or a bluff. And it turns out the hands or the arms or the fingers and how they touch the chips. Fluidity of movement. In other words, does give one some insight. Is that am I getting it about right?

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S3: You are. You are. So when I started looking at Telles. I came into it thinking, OK, there is probably not going to be as much as I want here because I had worked with con artists for my last book. And I know how bad humans are at spotting deception. So I wasn’t too optimistic. And, you know, people say, oh, have a poker face. And what you end up realizing is that looking at faces actually screws you up because we’re pretty good at controlling our face. We have to control our face all the time, every single day. So I was trying to figure out, OK, well, then what is there? What can I do? Can I really have any sort of an edge with physical tells? And it turns out there are people who really are spending a lot of time researching this. And I had a chance to to talk to someone named Michael Slepian at Columbia University who has done work on poker, tells. He’s interested in secret keeping. So. So that’s how he got there. And he had a really interesting study where he showed people videos of the World Series of Poker. And these people were not poker players. Some of them had played before. But a lot of them had never played poker before. And he showed three versions. One was a totally unedited video where you could just see, you know, from the poker table up. So someone’s face, torso, hands, arms, everything. One was edited so you could only see the upper part of their body. So only their faces above their shoulders. And one was edited so that you could only see their hands and kind of that lower arm motion. And it turns out that the people who looked at faces were worse than chance at figuring out who had a strong hand. So he asked them, you know, is this person stand strong? That’s what they had to say. Like, are they strong or are they or are they weak? And so the faces screwed people up. And they actually started performing worse when they looked at the whole body. They performed at chance levels. So they didn’t know is like a coin flip. But when they just looked at the hands, all of a sudden they could tell when people were holding good cards. Even when. They didn’t know anything about poker. And to me, that’s just so fascinating. We shouldn’t be worried about poker face. We should be worried about poker hands. We’re not controlling our hands nearly as much. And I think that’s where so much valuable information can be found.

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S7: So here’s my question knowing this. Do you ever give out false information via your hands or fluidity of movement, knowing that maybe other people might know this? Do you ever fumble with a chip when you’re really strong? Just rub someone in?

S3: No, I think that trying to give a fake tales that’s gonna screw you up more than it helps you because chances are you’re going to you’re just gonna mess up. Normally, whenever you try something like that, you give off more than you hide. It’s really, really difficult to to do it consistently. And it takes time. I think it’s much easier to just focus on the things that that you’re doing and try to be consistent in how you do them rather than try to add complexity. Because if someone’s really looking and really paying attention to you, they’ll see when you’re deviating and if you forget to do it the next time. And you know what? The less information you’re giving out, the better.

S7: You know, that’s true, because whenever I have, like, a high pocket pair, I do. Here’s the chart. Here’s the steeple. Open it up and see all the people. And at this point, I think it’s a tell. I really do. So given how much being a good poker player, really good poker player correlates to things like not deceiving yourself and getting rid of logical fallacies and metacognition, do you think that excellence at poker could in some ways be a substitute for seeing a psychologist or a mental health counselor? Do you think that being good at poker can serve that need?

S3: Well, I think that, you know, I’ve joked before and I do believe this, that a poker table is like a therapy session on steroids because just all your shit’s going to come out at the poker table at one point or another because, you know, as we talked about, you’re going through life drama in the scope of a day. There are just so many highs and lows and all of your hang ups, all of your kind of all of your issues, those are going to come out at one point or another because they’re going to affect how you play. They’re going to make you more emotional in certain spots than another’s. They’ll eventually get to you. So I don’t think it replaces therapy in the sense that. OK, well, now you’ve identified your issues, so that’s the first part of therapy. But now how do you work on them? And so I do think that you need someone to help you with that. But it definitely helps you get to the heart of a lot of issues faster than anything I’ve ever encountered.

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S7: Yeah. So of all the angles of this book and it’s a few things, it’s the experience QRL Plimpton Paper Lion thing, it’s a different, interesting, compelling way to examine aspects of psychology. It’s also a subculture into poker. It’s a little bit of profile writing. Which one surprised you the most as being the most interesting?

S3: Honestly, everything, because I had no idea what I was getting into. I mean, I knew nothing about poker, but I think I mean, the complexity of the game was really surprising to me and the fact that it taught me so much about myself, you know, I realized that it was going to teach me about decision making. You know, that’s kind of that’s what I had in mind, that it was gonna teach me about probabilities and statistics and that kind of thing. I knew that. So that wasn’t necessarily surprising. I didn’t realize that it was going to teach me to confront things about myself that I didn’t even know existed. That it was going to teach me that, you know, I’ve internalized gender stereotypes and that I actually act in a way that conforms with them in a way that’s not optimal and that I let that enter enter into my decision process. So the amount of insight I just gave me about myself as a person and the tools that it gave me to deal with that. That, to me was the most surprising because I had no idea that a game could do that.

S7: What’s something that you do in your daily life today that you wouldn’t do without poker?

S3: I definitely negotiate a lot better in my daily life. I hate negotiating, especially when money is involved. I hate it. It’s something that just I don’t ever want to do. But I forced myself to a few times now, and it’s had pretty good consequences. And that’s something that I’ve had trouble with my whole life. So I think that poker is the only thing that has changed. So I’m guessing that that’s what’s enabling me to actually get better outcomes in these.

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S7: When you ask for more money and then the person you’re asking to says, I just I just can’t do it. You look at his hands.

S3: Absolutely.

S7: Every time the kid the name of the book is the biggest bluff. The author of the book is Maria Konnikova. How I Learned to Pay Attention, Master Myself and Win. Yes. Maria Konnikova, twenty eighteen, newcomer of the year finalist Maria Konnikova, that one. Thanks so much, Maria. Thank you so much, Mike.

S2: And now the spiel. I’m surprised by the amount of attention Donald Trump’s poorly attended Tulsa rally is getting, as if it were a turning point or even a useful data point. If we credit the theory that a poorly attended rally is a sign of real electoral weakness, then I think we’re also endorsing the idea that enthusiastic crowds are a strong proxy for electoral strength. But they’re not. Polling tells us a better picture. A good analysis of the polls called forecasting tells us a better picture still before the Trump rally in Tulsa. I wasn’t riveted. And it really check it out. I wasn’t particularly invested in how well it would go for him or how poorly I figured it would be a usual rally where tens, 20000 people filled an arena which represents in Oklahoma one and a half percent of the number of people who voted in 2016, even after the campaign. Trump filled arenas in states that he won handily, in states that he won tightly, and even in states that he lost, holding big well attended rallies in Nevada and Minnesota, and even in places where we all know he has no chance of winning this special place. At the time at the time, he was holding rallies like this, which was when he was trying to keep the House of Representatives Republican in 2018. The correct even I would go as far as, say, obvious opinion that a rally is like the gilded edifice of a Trump building. It might be impressive to the unsophisticated, but rally size actually gives us little information. Sometimes people with a political science bent would make the point more frequently. Members of the media weren’t even tempted to go that far. They would fixate on the fact that Trump would brag about rally sizes that were inaccurate and they would try to correct the record. There’s something useful in that, but it doesn’t go all the way. Here was Anderson Cooper calling out Donald Trump after the Aug. 20 19 El Paso rally.

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S8: If you want to really see something, go outside. Tens of thousands of people are watching screens outside.

S9: OK. That’s not true either. The El Paso Times cites a fire department spokesman saying the arena holds sixty five hundred people, not a thousand, like the president said, and that they did not let in extra people over that limit. Fire department spokesman also told the paper that the president’s overall crowd might total 10000 if you include the people watching outside.

S2: So after so many documented cases of the president being called out on crowd size exaggeration, what seems to have taken hold is not so much that the president lies about crowd size that we know. But what has solidified itself is a piece of political wisdom that is not wise is the idea that crowd size is some very important fact of political viability. Over a Politico today, they noted that the Senate and some of the House was back in session and Jake Sherman said this was among the hot questions Republicans would now have to answer.

S9: Do you believe the president’s campaign team is up to the task of winning an election if they so badly misjudged the crowd that was going to show up in Tulsa? And furthermore, if they didn’t change the locale, if they knew it was going to fall short of expectations.

S2: That’s the hard question. The answer would seem to be, well, those idiots won at once, didn’t they? Or does it matter what I believe? Just that enough white people without college educations in five to 15 swing states believe it. On Bloomberg, reporter Derek Wallbank said that the poorly attended Tulsa rally will make a big difference.

S10: And it’s got the Trump campaign deservedly worried about what their actual show of support is. And so the Trump campaign will take this and they’ll sit there and say, wait, what do we have to do from here? Because I think that this was a pretty good sized wake up call from them.

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S1: Doesn’t that sentiment implied a reality based group of campaign professionals over there on Team Trump? If this is a wakeup call, they’ll have gone from heezy dream logic to some sort of empirically based down to earth sensibility. What I’m saying is I don’t think the Trump team has that. My point isn’t that they’re stupid or a bunch of incompetence. They are a moral, of course, but that there we met is to get Donald Trump elected. So what are you gonna do, deny Trump the rallies he needs? I mean, Trump earns unadulterated coverage from these rallies. His souls, such as it is, is nourished by these rallies. If you’re running the Trump team, you’re gonna have to do some version of rallies. In fact, I believe the Trump team and many Trump supporters are competent, amoral, moral, though they might may be maybe even immoral, but competent enough to realize that it’s harder to draw to an indoor rally during a pandemic than one might think. Just as I don’t think the professionals on Trump’s team truly buy into the idea that crowd size is a broad indicator of appeal. I also don’t think that the Trump team believes that the loudest voices who are most against masks are typical of the Trump supporter. I mean, the Trump team knows how to read a poll, especially a poll by Fox News. And last week they pulled on mask wearing and they found that even among Republicans, more than two thirds say they have a favorable view of those who wear masks, whereas only 20 percent look at them unfavorably, strongly, unfavorably. The Trump team knows this. The rally may have underperformed in terms of turnout, but it really shouldn’t have conveyed whole swaths of new information. If you’re going to be consistent in saying we have good but not perfect information on how people vote, why they vote, how strongly they hold their opinions, and I think we do, then we have to say rightly that Donald Trump’s constant prattling on about rally size is inaccurate. And therefore, we owe it to ourselves to say that when the rally size is small, as well as when the rally size is somewhat large, though not as large as Donald Trump ever says it is. I know it’s going on. I understand it’s about negative partisanship. This is news among Democrats and Trump critics because it so bothers the Trump partisans and it creates an emotional reaction to this disappointing development. And right now, you might be saying, Mike, Mike, what you’re saying is factually true. Sure, sure. Sure. But there is something great that I want to know about. If Donald Trump is driven crazy and I am here for that, I need to listen to the replays of clips like this one by Trump campaign director of communication Tim Murtaugh on CNN right before the event. The fact is President Trump can pack 20000 seat arenas and we’re going to have tens of thousands more people out here in the streets. No, he couldn’t.

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S2: And no, there weren’t. I get it. EG if not mask on the face. I do worry about one more thing though, and that’s the legitimization of ticktock teens. Oh. Maybe convincing the Trump administration and his supporters did exist was the greatest trick the ticktock teens ever pulled. But I’m hesitant to give them too much credit. The tick tock teens must be looked upon askance going forward. And as far as the K pop crowd. Where to even start? Not in Tulsa, which was a non-starter for kind of obvious and logical reasons, though, within a political environment where logic doesn’t usually win the day.

S6: And that’s it for Today Show, Margaret Kelly is the just associate producer, she is the gut shot straight drawer under the gun that hits of our producing team. Daniel Shrader was away, but he is still the gist producer. He said while Jack’s in middle position strong, but you gotta know when to toss him. We had help from Joel Patterson, who is so into game theory optimization or GTA, so that he actually went out and bought a Pontiac PTO only to realize he was out, kicked and mucked it in favor of a Chevrolet Monte Carlo simulation. The gist? Why do all of his lighthearted moments weigh so heavily on the heart when poor Adepero to Peru? And thanks for listening.