Three Reasons Why Engineers Make Great Poker Players… and One Reason Why They Don’t

By Sol Rosenbaum
November 10, 2019

Ed. Note: At Cardplayer Lifestyle we enjoy sharing with our readers contributed articles from a variety of different authors with unique perspectives on the game of poker. This post is brought to you by Sol Rosenbaum, licensed professional engineer and founder of

Engineers don’t have to be engineers.

In fact, engineering school gives one a great foundation to enter a wide array of fields.

There are always the engineering graduates who continue on to medical or law school as well as some who veer into the management and business side of things by getting an MBA. I even know someone who ended up starting a painting business after getting his degree in software engineering.

As poker continues to grow in popularity it should come as no surprise that engineers are getting in on the action. In fact, I think an engineering degree is perfectly suited for success in the poker world.

Here are the three skills that engineers possess that give them an edge in the poker world, plus one that hurts their chances.


They Understand the Odds

Non-math-oriented people are notoriously bad at gauging relative odds. Just look at the number of people who wait in line to buy a lottery ticket. How many of them really understand that their odds of getting hit by lightning are 4-5x greater than the odds of them winning the lottery?

Sure, there is some luck involved in winning, but at its core, poker is a game of statistical analysis, making the understanding of odds crucial. All good poker players, regardless of their background, are going to have a solid grasp on these odds. However, the learning curve for someone with an engineering background is going to be much smoother considering their inherent background in mathematics.


Ability to Determine the Variables

In some senses, engineering can be pretty easy and straightforward; just apply the formula and out pops the answer. However, the tricky part can be in determining which formula is applicable in the given situation and the value of each of the variables represented within the formula. After working on these types of problems for four years during engineering school and possibly out in industry as well, engineers become pretty adept at recognizing situations and their variables.


Applying this type of thought process to the poker world works to an engineer’s benefit. The sooner you can recognize the situation in which you find yourself and the sooner you can recognize the variables that can help or hurt you, the greater success you will find at the poker table.

Ability to Systematize, Analyze, and Test

Does the thought of being handed an Excel worksheet with literally thousands upon thousands of cells representing interval data from a piece of equipment sound like a normal day at work? For many engineers, digging through and interpreting the data to find trends and anomalies is part of their daily routine. Personally, this is something that I end up doing several times a week as I review energy data for buildings and then evaluate how various energy reduction projects may (or may not) help them out.


Win or lose, it’s important for a poker player to understand what led to that result so that it is repeatable or avoidable. Luck will always be a part of poker, but a deeper analysis of the trends and outcomes can reduce the dependence on luck and increase one’s winning opportunities. As such, it goes without saying that studying with good poker software could enhance these abilities to an even greater level.

On the Downside: Engineers are Risk-Averse

As a group, engineers like to take a more conservative approach in their work and are generally risk-averse. This is particularly prominent with civil, nuclear, and aerospace engineers who design bridges, power plants, and airplanes, where failure would be catastrophic. Therefore, these engineers utilize safety factors in their calculations to pad the results for that “just in case” situation where multiple outside forces come into play.


Taking measured risks in poker is part of the game and, some would say, a requirement for success. However, due to this aversion to risk, engineers often miss opportunities due to overstatement of the risks. This natural tendency would be something they’d need to overcome upon taking a seat at the poker table.

In Conclusion

Using one’s engineering degree as a springboard for non-engineering pursuits is nothing new. The skills one learns in engineering school and working on engineering projects are applicable in many realms, and poker is no exception.

There will be those who look at an engineer in the poker world and think that he is wasting his education. However, the truth is that he would be actually applying his engineering education and skills in a very direct manner that could lead to a great deal of success.



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Sol Rosenbaum poker author
Written By.

Sol Rosenbaum

Sol Rosenbaum, PE, CEM is a licensed professional engineer and has been working in the energy engineering field since 2001. He also has a passion for mentoring younger engineers towards successful career and is the founder of the website,


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