The Historical Link Between Math, Poker, and CAD

Ilya Lichman

Some parts of the history of CAD are intertwined with card games and other fun activities, perhaps more than CAD/CAE/CAM users and developers realize. One of the most famous events occurred in the late 1980s when Jon Hirschtick trained the MIT Black Jack team.

Using his techniques, the team won millions in Las Vegas, which then went on to blacklist him from their casinos. You may have seen the movie or TV series about his amazing journey, going from university to winning at casinos, and then using $1 million of his winnings in 1993 to create SolidWorks, the first – and then best-selling – mid-range mechanical CAD package to run on Windows (now owned by Dassault Systѐmes). Later, he went on to lead the development of Onshape, now owned by PTC. You can read an interview Jon gave to our founder, David Levin.

Jon Hirschtick

There is a link between card games and software development. Creating outstanding software requires a high understanding of mathematics, along with self-control and willpower. We don't, of course, encourage anyone to replace their study of mathematics and programming with devoting their career to chess, Jeopardy, or poker, but we ourselves sometimes engage in games. Why? Because it provides a balance between math skills and the masterful use of them.

Poker game at LEDAS

Despite some people considering poker a game unsuitable for those who know how to systematically develop and apply their brains, many outstanding chess players regularly find themselves at the poker table. Recent world chess champion Magnus Carlsen coolly showed himself playing poker between tournaments.

We here at LEDAS do not play chess particularly well, but we do implement complex algorithms. And so, this month we held a company poker tournament. It was great: everyone learned a lot about themselves (which is good for individual growth), and we got to understand each other better (which is great for improving teamwork).

“I have been a big fan of poker since when I was a kid,” said Alexey Istomin, LEDAS vice CTO and LEDAS poker tournament participant. “Back then, I idolized the characters played by Adriano Celentano and Mel Gibson in movies like Bluff (originally released in Italian as Storia di Truffe e di Imbroglioni, 1976) and Maverick (1994) because they went boldly all-in to win the fortune with one last, big shot.

Alexey Istomin

“Later on, I learned that the game is not quite as it is shown in movies :) Today, I find it hard to disagree with the notion that math, theory of probability, and the law of big numbers is what it takes to win at poker, more so than luck or psychology. Or maybe just every mathematician thinks his science is better than the rest!

“I am glad we had the tournament, even though it was just a one-evening event. We saw different approaches, various strategies, some cool poker faces, and had a lot of fun. And, of course, there is more yet to come."

The winner received a well-deserved prize and respect of his peers, after which we returned to putting our efforts into perfecting intelligent components for the best CAD/CAE/CAM solutions on the planet.

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