Study Shows Wolves Would Be Aggressive Poker Players

You’ve probably never spent any time wondering what kind of poker players wolves would be. But a recent study from the Wolf Science Centre at Austria’s Veterinary University found that wolves are aggressive gamblers when it comes to food.

Below you can see the results of the study, how the research was performed, and what kind of poker players these aggressive wolves compare to.

Wolves Use an All-In Strategy for Tasty Meat

The Wolf Science Center research put wolves and dogs to a big choice in the study. Both canines could either choose a flavorless, but guaranteed food pellet, or take a fifty-fifty chance at getting either tasty meat or an inedible rock.

The wolves greatly favored taking the fifty-fifty option in pursuit of the tasty meat, while dogs chose the guaranteed food pellet more often than the wolves.

“We compared the propensity to take risks in a foraging context between wolves and dogs that had been raised under the same conditions,” says Sarah Marshall-Pescini, a postdoctoral fellow at Veterinary University.

“We found that wolves prefer the risky option significantly more often than dogs. This difference, which seems to be innate, is consistent with the hypothesis that risk preference evolves as a function of ecology.”

How Did the Study Work?

According to Phys.org, Marshall-Pescini and her research team let 7 dogs and 7 wolves choose between two upside-down bowls when it was time to eat. The canines would use their muzzle or paw to indicate which bowl they wanted.

The animals had been trained prior to the study on which bowl was the “safe” option and which one was the fifty-fifty option. The fifty-fifty option yielded chicken, sausage, or an inedible rock, all of which the animals knew to expect from training.

Wolves chose the fifty-fifty option 80% of the time, whereas the dog only did so 58% of the time.

Why Are Wolves More Risky?

Researchers at the Wolf Science Center believe that dogs became more cautious after undergoing an evolutionary shift from their ancestral hunter lifestyle to being scavengers. This happened 18,000 to 32,000 years ago, when humans domesticated dogs from wolves and began feeding them scraps.

Wolves, on the other hand, remain wild and hunting for large prey, which is always a risk that might not pan out.

“Wild wolves hunt large ungulates—a risky strategy, not only because hunts often fail, but also because these prey animals can be dangerous,” says Marshall-Pescini. “Free-ranging dogs, which make up 80% of the world’s dog population, feed mostly by scavenging on human refuse, a ubiquitous, unlimited resource. So dogs no longer need to take risks when searching for food, and this may have selected for a preference to play it safe.”

How Would Wolves Play on the Poker Table?

If dogs and wolves could play poker, dogs would fall into the tight-passive category, while wolves would be in the loose-aggressive category.

What the wolves did in the study essentially equates to going all-in 80% of the time in a heads-up match. Obviously this isn’t the best universal poker strategy, but it could work against a tight-passive opponent who’s afraid to call without the nuts or close to it.

Of course, in the context of the study, the wolves likely knew that if they were starving, they could fall back on the flavorless food pellets. This equates to having the chip lead and taking big risks to put your opponent away, all the while knowing that you’re still in decent shape if you lose an all-in bet.

In any case, the study shows that wolves are definitely bigger gamblers than dogs. And given the results, we can safely say that wolves would be highly aggressive poker players.

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