One of my good friends from college, Andrew Brokos, is a professional poker player and poker coach (as Foucault82, follow him at @thinkingpoker on Twitter). He is playing this week in the World Series of Poker Main Event in Las Vegas right now, as he has done for a number of years now. Andrew and I had conversations about playing poker back when we worked together in Boston. Those conversations concluded (as I am sure many of my IR friends can attest) that I suck at poker unless I get to stack the deck. And you don’t get to do that in real poker. Thus I suck at poker. But I have enjoyed following his blog over the years – not least because its a great answer to the question of what you can do with a University of Chicago philosophy degree.
This week, I have been reading about Andrew’s early progress in the Main Event (he’s one of the most consistent finishers in this event over the last decade), and about professional development questions in International Relations (including a discussion with Dan Nexon on Facebook about a future post on the ISQ editors’ blog, Steve Saideman’s post on overthinking professional strategy, and Erin Jenne’s useful post on RelationsInternational on book publishing strategies for recent Ph.D.s. Reading them together, I wondered if I (and other IR academics) might benefit from using some of Andrew’s poker strategy tips to find balance in professional development.
Andrew’s coaching tips often focus around thinking about the situation you’re in, using game theory to assess your odds, and making the right play at the right time – but even Andrew has criticized overthinking. His analytical approach to poker and mine to academic careers have a lot in common – so I figured I’d play with the idea of academic careerism and poker strategy in honor of Andrew’s WSOP appearance this week. Caveat: of course, I know there’s more tournament poker and academic strategy lack in commonality than that they share. But I think that some comparison is sure to be fun, and might be helpful. So … here’s my poker-scholarship advice of the day: play the situation and the cards, but don’t overplay either. Below, I try to use humor and some of Andrew’s advice to make that case.