Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Final Exam

Final ExamIn a little while I’ll be giving the final exam in my “Poker in American Film and Culture” class.

On Twitter yesterday I asked whether I should format the final as a freeze-out or rebuy. “SuperTurbo Shootout” suggested Kevmath. “Heads-up for rollz” added Drizztdj.

When I responded that I wanted to be certain the structure would give prominence to skill over luck, Drizztdj had another inspired response:

“Multiple choice but unfairly mark three out of ten incorrectly for variance.”

Hard to believe the semester is already over. On the other hand, so much has happened in poker since the class began, it seems like more than just a few months has passed.

Back in January, before the first class met, I posted a list of reading and viewing assignments here, showing the different “units” I had planned for the class. We ended up pretty much sticking to that order throughout, although we did rearrange things a little along the way. I’ll be teaching the class again in the fall, and am already thinking about dropping a few items and adding others.

If you look back at those different units, you’ll see that we ended the course with a kind of “miscellaneous” unit that collected various topics such as women in poker, moral arguments, legal matters, and online poker.

Thus, the way things worked out, we were already just about to talk about the legal stuff and online poker when “Black Friday” occurred. Needless to say, the surprising events of April 15th had a significant effect on our class discussions during those last meetings.

I didn’t make the class read the indictment or civil complaint. (Heck, I wasn’t going to do that right before they filled out course evaluations!) I did, however, recommend to them Nate Silver’s article that summarized both the recent history of online poker, the UIGEA, and what happened on Black Friday.

Ultimately I felt like it was all too much for us to take in there at the very end of the semester, and in our discussions on those days I mostly set the chaotic present aside as we focused more on the past -- as we’ve been doing all along.

But I did suggest in class that I felt as though poker’s image and status in American culture had taken a significant hit on April 15th. It was too soon, I said, to say precisely how severe of a setback we were looking at, but clearly the effects are going to last for a while. The association of poker with other criminal or morally objectionable behavior was strengthened. And the number of new poker players, steadily increasing over the last decade, will probably slow down for a while, too.

Students will be free to talk about Black Friday in the essay portion of the final exam, although I’m not requiring them to do so. The question there invites them to discuss how poker could be said to reflect both positive and negative aspects of American culture, referring to any of the readings or films to lend support to what they have to say.

If I were taking today’s final, though, I probably wouldn’t be able to avoid talking about Black Friday when responding to that question.

Anyhow, good luck to all those taking final exams during these last weeks of class.

Or rather, good skill.

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