SCOOP champion Alm Wilson on effective altruism

Alm Wilson is a 27-year-old student, both of Applied Physics and Mathematics...and of life.

Known as Chillolini on PokerStars, he already knows what it means to be a winner. This week's SCOOP title was his second COOP win. His first came last year during WCOOP when he bested Jason Somerville on a Twitch stream that had 27,000 people watching it.

"I won the WCOOP Stud Hi/Lo event last year which was less money for me, as I sold some action, but bigger in terms of prestige. However, this SCOOP win definitely felt incredible, since the start of the year has been very slow for me," Wilson said. "Shipping a SCOOP watch in this particular game also came with a sweet taste as I have been working a lot with 5-Card Draw lately and feel like it is probably one of my best games. Now I can't wait for the rest of the series, playing from a position of momentum."

This year's win came after no small amount of study. Wilson decided to broaden his repertoire, and when he did it came at a price.

"I recently made the decision to play more poker and to work more on all games. It didn't begin as planned though, as I started with a three month stretch in the red. Even though downswings are common and you try to not let it affect you, it is impossible to play your absolute A-game when you feel like what you do isn't getting you anywhere. So winning this definitely came at the right time," he said.

While his win (one in which SCOOP hero Calvin "cal42688" Anderson gave him fits at the final table) was great for Wilson's confidence and bankroll, that wasn't what he was most interested in discussing.


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Like many in the game, Wilson started out as a losing player. The $10 home tournaments with his friends gave him confidence, but not enough to make up for his lack of experience. Every time he deposited money to play against more experienced players, he lost it. He played 100,000 cash game hands but never made enough money to make the time worthwhile. So, he turned his mind to mixed games where the online talent wasn't as big. That's when he started making cash.

That success turned into a decent score in 2011 when he finished third in a WCOOP 8-game tourney. More success followed, but Wilson still felt like something was missing.

"I had a hard time justifying the whole thing, but I sort of shrugged and told myself that the players I won against were responsible for what they choose to do with their money," he said. "That changed two years ago when I read an interview with Philipp Gruissem where he talked about the effective altruism movement. I love treating the games of poker as problems that can be solved, and the effective altruist basically treats the world of charities the same way. By using science-based methods and rationality an effective altruist seeks not only to do good, but to find the most cost-effective ways of doing it. And like all successful poker players, effective altruists know that there are always room for improvement, and will never stop refining the methods by which they achieve their goals."

It wasn't long after that when Wilson found Raising For Effective Giving (REG), poker's answer to the effective altruism movement, one that takes some of the money exploding out of poker tournaments and re-routes it to the less fortunate. It's attracted some of poker's biggest names, people who have pledged to donate 2% of their poker income to charities that have proven to be effective.

During SCOOP, REG is running a special campaign whereby players pledge 3% of their final table winnings, something Wilson is doing as part of his campaign to not only be a student of math but also of effective altruistic living.

"For me, effective altruism has brought poker a new but essential element," Wilson said. "It not only motivates me, but it makes me feel more happy in life in general."




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is the PokerStars Head of Blogging.

Brad Willis
@BradWillis in SCOOP