The Poker Zoo, Ep. 50: “BFSkinner”

bfskinner pigeon

The Zoo returns with TBR member “BFSkinner”, a grinder on and in the Las Vegas live games. While I was focused on hearing about the state of poker in gambling central, we also ended up covering Skinner’s poker path from Moneymaker to the Covid-19 boom online he’s enjoyed. We also get back to talking through some poker hands – the strat segment has been missing from the pod of late.

Hand 1

Hand 2

A few notes for listeners and TBR members:

We still run our training deepstack game on PPPoker, as well as some SNGs to sharpen tournament instincts. Get in touch through

I’m looking to run the Easy Game Study Group in August. This will be the sixth time I run this three month, exhaustive review of Andrew Seidman’s exploitative poker masterpiece. Buy this great poker book and contact me for the prospectus.

Skinner caught a lot of flack for his initial focus on punishment as reinforcement. To test his theories on birds and other small animals he developed the now-famous Skinner Box: a chamber in which an animal could be isolated and discrete stimuli be applied without external interference. The box included a light, speaker, a food dispenser, and a lever that could be pressed by the occupant. It also had an electrified floor grid through which shocks could be administered.

In time, his work with birds became successful enough that he proposed to the Navy that they create pigeon-guided missiles during World War II – a one-way trip for the pigeon, obviously. The training program was successful (among other things, the birds became fairly decent ping-pong players), but, as was often the case in his career, Skinner had trouble getting anyone to take him seriously.

But it was when he took his ideas about behavior and conditioning and applied them to humans that Skinner found most of his success.

Skinner separated behaviors into two different types:

  • Respondent behavior – Often called Pavlovian behavior, these behaviors are the direct result of a stimulation and are subconscious, like a dog salivating when food is presented.
  • Operant behavior – Behaviors that are not initially induced by any particular stimulus, but which may be reinforced by environmental conditioning over time.

His idea of operant behaviors allowed for an explanation of more complex human behaviors that had never been explainable under classical models. Skinner came up with the idea of chaining, a condition in which a number of behaviors were combined and reinforced as a set.

–from Who Was B.F. Skinner?

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