Cash Money: It's a Good Thing

Prize money
Cash means confidence.

Like most of you, I really like money. Oh, not just the stuff in a bank or an investment fund or tied up in a mortgage. The real stuff, the paper.

I love the feel of it with its slightly raised surfaces rich with ink, embossed with faces, slogans, monuments to greatness past and imagined. I love its smell; I love the texture of the stacked edges laid side by side.

I love the sound of counting out stacks of hundreds each slipping off the other with a gentle swish. I’m a guy. I’m a gambler. I’m a poker player and a horse junkie.

When I was young, a mere slip of a kid, a pretender in these games I kept my money in my wallet, tucked into the back pocket of my jeans where its bulk made the obligatory ring on the leather surface (hey, you never know….).

Then I learned. Real men don’t use wallets; they fold their bills. No ostentatious money clips, no bejeweled snap-shut baubles; just an elastic band to hold my stash, wrapped twice about the wad thick with importance and shoved into my left front pocket where I could run my finger tips along its edges as I walked.

My elastic-wrapped talisman. It is always with me.

My wife says, as we head into the supermarket, “Do you have money for the groceries?”

“I do,” I smile, for I do. I always do. It is my amulet, my wad, my bullet proof shield and it has, almost always, a couple of thou’ (hey, you never know….).

Lacey Jones
Everbody likes money.

It is the first thing that gets shifted into the new left hand pocket of my clean jeans for I am naked without it, insecure without it. If I get broke in a big game I go get more for I am fragile and weak and feel less a man without it.

I’ve been this way with money for so long that it has begun to bother me. It felt like a drug. Like I was hooked. On slow, cold evenings I would take out my roll and count it, slowly and lovingly. And I would feel better about life.

Why should this be? The money in my pocket is actually a pittance. It’s nowhere near what’s in my bank, my pension funds, my portfolio, my house, my car. I don’t get out my bank book and rub it or flip through its pages. I’ve never had any desire to pull out my stock holding summary sheets and rub them against my cheeks.

Why the folding stuff? It’s really weird and forty-plus years of studying the human condition has taught me that when these kinds of anomalies pop up, something’s going on. But what?

Then I ran across an article in the journal Psychological Science and I smiled. It turns out that not only is my fascination with wads of hundred dollar bills fairly common, it has a straightforward, though somewhat surprising basis to it.

Money, indeed, acts like and has many of the properties of an addictive drug.

Xinyue Zhou at Sun Yat Sen University in China and Kathleen Vohs at the University of Minnesota and her colleagues (if you’re curious, check out Vohs extensive and fascinating research) have discovered some rather amazing facts about money, especially paper money.

We know that rejection and physical pain are unpleasant. Zhou and company found that the simple act of handling money reduces both physical pain and the psychological distress of rejection. And it isn’t just the act of handling paper with similar shape and feel. The effects are dependent on it being real bills.

Professional poker player Roy Brindley, in his book Life’s a Gamble, goes on lovingly about the “cash in the pocket” life style. I thought it a bit odd at the time but now it makes sense.

Zhou and colleagues also found that having money in your pocket increases confidence and improves mood. Even more remarkable, these effects have symbolic features. Simply being reminded of money spent or money lost increases psychological distress and imaging oneself having money reduces social anxieties.

The message for poker players? Simple. Carry cash. Carry it in rolls that are easily touched and can serve as reminders of its presence.

If you go bust, go get more cash. Fat rolls are best. If you’re short on hundreds, get a bunch of tens or fives. Fold them over in a wad, wrap an elastic band around them and, when you get the chance, sit down and count them, smell them, let the loose symbolic taste of money penetrate your brain.

It is a drug. It is stimulating the release of endorphins, of dopamine. Your nucleus accumbens is dazzling with activity. And you will feel more confident. Your game will improve and you will win more money and need a bigger elastic band.

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Arty Smokes 2011-06-16 23:51:00

It must be quite nice to get your research papers written up in a Psychology journal, but this "fascinating research" must surely be filed under "Stating the obvious". Whatever next - a psychology grad making the remarkable discovery that having sex twice a day is good for one's general well-being?

GaelWarrior 2010-08-17 02:20:19

I must say, I totally agree with Makana and Daniel.

I also agree with Mr. Weber, although I am not a fan of the rubber band.

There are quite a few money clips that one can acquire that are not ostentatious, but are in fact, quite classy.

Phil j 2010-06-18 01:15:17

i completely agree with Daniel u guys are painfully stupid with your comments sometimes. Mr. Reber has more insight than you could shake a stick at. To be quite frank hes a pimp

Daniel R. 2010-04-02 06:51:51

Makana is right, you people are very close minded, not to mention rude. I have read all of Mr. Reber's writings on this site and just because he doesn't mention the words "pot odds" and "post oak bluff" much, doesn't mean it is not relevant. To me all of the columns are quite inspiring, because they give you a different perspective on playing poker as well as being quite relatable to "real life".
Stop disrespecting the man. He has more insight on poker than any of us and I promise you it is all perfectly relevant. All you have to do is think about it a little.

GUI: That is so stupid. He is referring to actual scientific studies backing up his claims. Don't be questioning the validity of that. That's just ignorant.

GUI 2010-02-23 18:14:04

Hmmm... With most respect to the author(s), this sounds more like cheap superstition to me than anything else.

Alex 2010-01-13 00:11:18

I wouldn't recommend walking around with cash in any major city. Although cash money is very sexy

Makana 2010-01-11 05:19:58

Guys, you're being quite close minded. First, this article is listed under "Poker Psychology" so it's quite appropriate for this categorization. Second, I think there is an interesting dynamic here. I personally find that I play my best aggressive poker when I am not worrying about my roll, when I have another few buy-ins in my pocket.

Also, sometimes after a really bad beat, I find that checking/counting my roll allows me to step back and say "Ok ok, I'm still doing alright" and it puts things in perspective. Keeping cool at the table is an absolutely necessary skill to have as a profitable poker player. If a pocket full of cash would keep me from tilting at the table one in every ten sessions, then it's +EV in my book.

copperdragon 2010-01-06 18:42:17

why is this article published under STRATEGY? Psychology? Yes. Strategy? NO!

wish I could get paid to ramble about my pseudo-phallic infatuation with a wad in my pocket.

ross 2010-01-02 23:03:02

This is by far the best poker strategy i've ever read.I should not have ordered harrington on hold'em as it will now be useless

VMayor 2009-12-28 15:26:02

And I love my dog. I love scratching under her chin, patting her head, smelling her bu... Well we all have a fetish or two. I just read too much about yours.

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