Hopkins professor wins big on poker class bet

January 30, 2020

Image: Will Kirk / Johns Hopkins University

“All in” is not just a phrase Avi Rubin throws around during poker games. It’s a way of life.

Whether it’s photography, boating, or his specialty field of applied cryptography, the Johns Hopkins computer science professor “never does anything halfway,” says his wife, Ann.

Rubin’s poker prowess outside the classroom has been well documented over the past 15 years since his younger brother, Yaacov, a senior finance official at Hopkins, introduced him to it.

But during January’s Intersession, the 52-year-old professor had the opportunity to bring his passion into the classroom by teaching “Introduction to the Theory and Practice of Poker.” His commitment to the course was evident: he had trophies made for various competitions he organized, he bought a domain name for the class—hopkinspokercourse.com, which houses all of his filmed lectures and course materials—he set up a students-only PokerStars.com page, and he hosted a tournament at his house.

“It was like a dream come true for him,” his wife says.

Rubin wasn’t the only one excited about the course, which did not involve gambling real money. Nearly 250 students registered for the class, including his daughter Elana, a junior Writing Seminars major. That made it the most popular Intersession course by far, representing 10% of the nearly 2,500 students who signed up for January classes.

“It’s been amazing,” Rubin says.

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