Science denier Bilzerian to go heads up with science writer O'Brien

Jon Pill
Posted on: December 19, 2020 04:59 PST

Alex O'Brien, a relative unknown in the poker world, won $10,000 for her first-place finish in GGPoker's Bilzerian birthday freeroll. However, it turns out she might be a better publicist for the game than Blitz has been. O'Brien is a science writer, and her latest book is on poker.

"Poker has this image problem," she said in a recent interview. "All this gambling is degenerate, things like that. So someone who has never played poker will never think about poker as a strategic game when it's so highly strategic."

Now she has a perfect climax to the piece. Not only did she win, but part of the prize for coming first is $3,000 to take Bilzerian on heads up. Bilzerian does not believe scientists on the subject of COVID. So he makes the perfect final villain in a story about using scientific thinking to solve problems.

She hopes her book can change perceptions about poker. "It talks about the science, and makes the case chapter by chapter that poker isn't this game played by a gang of boys or bad guys."

We'll see if she still thinks that after playing Bilzerian.

She tweeted about her victory saying, "Thank you so much @GGPoker, I had a blast playing!"

Missed opportunity

O'Brien almost missed her opportunity to play the event.

On the afternoon of the game, she explained, "[My poker coach] asked me if I'd seen the GGPoker freeroll and I said that I hadn't. [...] I basically knew nothing except there was this tournament with a massive freeroll."

But she managed to sign up on time and was in the perfect headspace. She had just handed in her manuscript. With her deadline met, she was able to relax.

"I was just having fun. I was just running hot," she said. "I'd just turned in my book and I was applying the knowledge, and then I went on to win."

She had a pretty easy time of it too. An early double up put her near the top of the chip count leaderboard. She didn't fall much behind for most of the tourney.

Final table rush

Still in relaxation mode, she coasted on her chip stack for most of the final table. Folding a lot, not getting out of line. She said, "I was never focused on winning the whole thing. Just focused on one more elimination. 'Let's do one more.'"

Then she got down to the final four.

"With four left," she said. "I'm like 'OK, let's do this.'"

And she did.

The backlash against GGPoker hiring Bilzerian was largely centered around his misogyny and his alleged history of violence toward women. O'Brien wants to avoid that rather prickly issue though, saying, "It's not about [Bilzerian]. It's about me."

Well, if she beats him in the heads up game, it's all water under the bridge anyway.

Featured image source: Twitter