How Learning Poker Is Being Used to Recruit Women Into Money Management Roles
You may have heard people declare, “I’d be a horrible poker player,” or, the opposite sentiment, “I wouldn’t want to play poker with them!” Typically, it means the person can’t hide their emotions and their face shows exactly how they feel.
But there are other key skills involved in poker, too, including risk-taking and knowing how to “read” others. And, it turns out, all these skills that can improve your poker game can also help women in the workplace. At least, that’s the thought behind “Power Poker,” a dozen course program developed by billionaire options trader Jenny Just.
Just is the cofounder of options trading firm Peak6 Capital Management and has amassed a net worth of $1.5 billion, according to Forbes. She started the poker course as a way to recruit more women into money management roles, according to Bloomberg. Thirty-five percent of traders at Just’s company identify as women, but only 14% of the 25,000 fund managers worldwide are women, according to a report from Morningstar Inc. Sadly, that number has not risen in the past 21 years.
Just’s course first teaches the basics of poker and then applies that knowledge, such as how to read people, knowing when to fold and understanding when it’s beneficial to go “all in,” to workplace scenarios, including salary negotiations. Poker skills are taught by seasoned players, Bloomberg reported.
Then, the entire group gets together on Zoom for games of Texas Hold ‘Em with no money at stake. The course is free for women to play as individuals, and you can also get private lessons with one of the teachers for $55/hour. Nearly 4,000 women across the world have signed up to play, Bloomberg reported. Many of the students come from corporate clients — including investment management firms and Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Business — who pay a fee to provide the course to their workers or students.
While it’s unlikely a poker course will break the glass ceiling or change the dynamics of negotiation that occur when women ask for raises, it is helping women build confidence, resilience and assertiveness, Gail Berger, deputy director of the Kellogg Center for Executive Women told Bloomberg.
“There’s really this behavior change that happens,” she said.
Using poker to hone boardroom skills is not unprecedented. A 2019 University of Alabama study found that hedge fund managers who are good at poker are, on average, also more successful. In 2018, billionaire hedge fund manager David Einhorn placed 6th in a World Series of Poker tournament, while managers John Sabat and Whitney Tilson chair the Take ‘Em to School poker tournament fundraiser, Bloomberg reported.
Just told Bloomberg, “Some of the most senior leaders in the financial industry teach their kids poker at 5, 6, 7 years old. It’s a constructive, strategic game.”
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