Avi Rubin looks at his cards. Looks at his chips. Ponders his options. He has made it to the last table of a poker tournament at Delaware Park Casino, near Wilmington, Delaware, but he is perilously close to elimination. Stacked before him now is $8,000 worth of chips—the chips are merely to keep score; he bought into the tournament for only $65—and his eight remaining adversaries have among them $298,500. To win the event he must win all of their chips, too, and he is tired, worn down by the struggle this tournament has been. The game is Texas Hold ’em, the most popular poker variant, and the two cards in Rubin’s hand are the ace and 4 of spades. Not the strongest hand, but he has $13,000 already invested in this pot. He thinks some more. Then he shoves his remaining chips into the center of the table. He is all in. If he wins the hand, he keeps going. If he loses, he goes home.
Rubin does not play poker for a living. He is a 44-year-old professor of computer science in the Whiting School of Engineering, plus technical director of the Johns Hopkins University Information Security Institute, plus director of the Health and Medical Security Lab at the same institution, plus a well-paid computer security consultant. [more...]