Harvard Law school thinks it has found the solution to many of society’s problems, from teenage delinquency to world diplomatic crises: a hand of poker.

The card game that is a game of skill to its advocates, and a potentially ruinous bet on chance to its detractors, is to be taught to disadvantaged US school children and college students to teach respect, business acumen and even war strategy.

Charles Nesson, a Harvard Law school professor, will next week unveil a plan to set up “global poker strategic thinking societies” at universities around the world, including Harvard, Yale and Oxford, when he attends a conference on virtual worlds and cyberspace in Singapore.

The societies will set up poker workshops at schools, sponsor university poker matches and develop an online poker curriculum for any institution that wishes to use it.

Prof Nesson, who once sold a computer programme he devised based on five-card draw, jacks-or-better – a variation of poker – for $50,000 (£25,000), said workshops had been arranged as an after-school activity for disadvantaged children in the Boston area and in Jamaica that involved real money, albeit very small stakes.

“Poker teaches people to think for themselves, it is a key component of individuality and a prime aspect of managing resources,” Prof Nesson said, admitting that some of these instincts for survival hardly encouraged notions of mutual trust.

Business dealmakers could learn from poker the art of avoiding making the first offer, he added, while teenage tearaways could take from it life skills such as patience, composure, respect for their foes and understanding someone else’s point of view. Law graduates would understand the law of evidence and diplomats could apply the art of bluffing to international relations.

As for personal finance and risk management, Prof Nesson said there was no better educational tool than poker to teach people how to make the most of their limited chips stack and “how to lose” or “to lose well”.

“As far as I’m concerned, it would be a better world if we all played poker,” Prof Nesson said.

Prof Nesson, who defended Vietnam war whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg in the 1971 Pentagon papers trial, hopes the idea will support those who want to legitimise the game in the US, where Congress last year passed legislation in effect banning online poker.

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