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A Former Member of Alec's Team on The Irrational Returns: What to Know About Camille
Alec Mercer's one-time protégé left the world of academia behind on The Irrational because she felt it was too "risky," but she landed in this high-stakes career instead.
What do you do when you’ve mastered the art of behavioral science? Head to Las Vegas, of course.
At least that’s what Alec Mercer’s (Jesse L. Martin) former student Camille Lawson (Jocelyn Hudon) decided to do on The Irrational, leaving the world of academia behind for the glitz and glamor of high-stakes poker.
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Camille was once admittedly Alec’s “favorite student” or the “Phoebe before Phoebe” as research assistant Rizwan (Arash DeMaxi) described it, before she abandoned the behavioral science program at Wylton University and headed to Vegas about a year and a half before Season 1 of The Irrational picks up.
“Moving here was one of the least risky things I could have done,” Camille said of the seemingly brash decision. “Going into debt as a grad student with no guarantee of a job was a bad play.”
But it turned out high-stakes poker may not have been the sure thing the game theory expert had hoped it would be.
After a surprising loss to a mediocre player in the Royal Flush Rumble tournament, Camille began to suspect her opponent Ethan (Curtis Lum) was cheating and called her former mentor to ask for his help to flush out the truth.
Although admittedly gambling fraud wasn’t something in Alec’s “typical wheelhouse,” the college professor agreed to help Camille and brought his current research assistants Rizwan and Phoebe (Molly Kunz) with him to Las Vegas for extra support. Alec’s sister Kylie (Travina Springer) also joined in on the Sin City fun.
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With three years of behavioral science training under her belt, Camille first found success in the poker circuit, using what she’d picked up about human behavior to assess her opponents.
“When I first got to Vegas it felt like I couldn’t lose. I was making so much money so quickly and it felt like it would just always be like that,” she confessed to Alec. “Before I knew it, I was spending money left and right. I bought my mom a house. She sacrificed so much for me and I could finally give her what she deserved.”
What Camille didn’t realize was that she’d unwittingly fallen victim to “outcome bias,” or the idea that when things are good, they’ll always be that way. Her good fortune turned when Ethan, who was usually not much of a threat to her, suddenly began winning and she noticed something unusual about his game.
“He had an edge, like he already knew what I was holding and I couldn’t believe that he was beating me and then that put me on tilt,” she said. “Every decision I made got worse and worse until I spent every penny that I had, more than what I had.”
To dig herself out of the hole, Camille turned to loan shark Dominic (Peter Bryant) and his cronies and quickly racked up a debt of $2 million. The only way to get the money she needed—and allow her mother to keep the house—was to find out how Ethan was cheating and win the tournament herself.
But when Ethan suddenly dropped out of the tournament and another player Hank Riddle (Stew McLean) seemed to be winning with the same meager hands, Camille began to suspect the conspiracy went much deeper than one dishonest player.
With the (very forceful) help of Dominic, Alec tracked Ethan down and learned that he had an anonymous inside partner at the tournament who was viewing live footage of the players' cards and transmitting messages to him by a small device in his shoe. In exchange, the anonymous mastermind would receive 80% of the winnings, while Ethan would walk away with a guaranteed 20%. Alec’s team believed it was the same strategy Hank was now using to get ahead.
They were able to identify the culprit as the game’s organizer, Linda Fields (Deb Podowski), by flooding Hank with too many signals so he couldn’t identify the proper ones and watching who drank their free beverage the fastest when Hank didn’t perform as the cheater expected, a sign of the surprise reflex theory.
After Camille collected her hefty bounty as the tournament winner, she had a heart-to-heart with both Phoebe and Alec. Camille apologized to Phoebe, her once close friend, for leaving the university so quickly without ever discussing her plan with her fellow research assistant.
And she opened up about her reason for leaving the university and speculated about her future in poker with Alec now that she’d experienced the lows of life as a professional poker player.
“I have to ask, is it my fault you left the department?” Alec asked. “I never gave you the attention you needed? I put too much responsibility on you?”
“No, no you didn’t,” Camille reassured him. “It gave me the time and space to discover that academia wasn’t really right for me.”
When Alec asked whether poker was the right life for her, Camille said she was still trying to figure that out.
“I thought I would find more certainty here, but the truth is nothing is certain,” she admitted. “So, I’m going to take some time to think, analyze the data of recent events so I can make the best decision going forward.”