the best is yet to come
a lot of good shit has happened since my last entry. first and foremost, a couple weeks ago i was featured in an LA times article on PhDs who have gone into non-academic careers. here is the link!
LA Times: Universities are offering doctorates but few jobs
the main gist of the article is that universities are continuing to recruit and churn out new PhDs at record pace, but there is no demand for them; the number of faculty positions available at universities is only decreasing. i thought that the reporter, alana semuels, did an excellent job of conveying my sentiments toward academia. i’m not exactly bitter i spent six years doing a PhD, and i’m proud of my accomplishment because it was pretty fucking difficult. when i started graduate school in 2003 i didn’t quite know what i was getting into – and with something like grad school, you really can’t know what it’s going to be like until you get there – but one core assumption that i had (and that i think most people have) was that a PhD would open the door to a wide variety of career options. but when i was nearing the end and finally admitted to myself that i didn’t want to look for postdoc positions, i was at a total loss on how to proceed. i sought out help wherever i could, but asking a tenured faculty member for advice on jobs outside the academic sector is like asking a high-stakes pro for tips on how to beat $1/2 at the card club. not only do they not really know, but they also fundamentally don’t really care; the world outside the ivory tower is so irrelevant and beneath their radar that it’s a ridiculous question to pose in the first place. if you are not shooting for the tenure track, it’s not because there is anything wrong with the massive ponzi scheme that is academic science, it’s because you just can’t hack it.
the LA times ran a different photo in the print edition. a couple people have asked if i was actually playing poker in these photos. the answer is, duh.. no. i just pulled up some random table for the photo shoot, which lasted a few hours :)
the washington post’s college blog also picked up on the story and included a quote from me on some of these issues: Whitman grad with Ph.D. plays online poker
after these stories came out i received a flood of positive feedback. i was invited to be on a morning radio show in LA, and got dozens of emails from people in PhD and masters programs who found themselves in a similar predicament: either not wanting to or not being able to find an academic job, and having no idea what to do with themselves. doing years of specialized research in a very specific subdomain of science doesn’t translate well into marketable skills you can put on a resume. when i was trying to adapt my CV to a one-page resume i could actually use for job applications, i got so dejected because i looked like a one-dimensional broken record: research internship, research job, another research job, six years of grad school doing – surprise – research! on paper the only thing i was qualified for was the one thing i absolutely did not want: an academic research position.
there are two fundamental problems with graduate education, as i see it: (1) the disparity between the rising number of new PhDs and the diminishing jobs available for them, and (2) the failure on the part of doctoral programs to acknowledge this reality and provide guidance or training for their students in obtaining non-academic careers. this results in a situation where the majority of grads who are looking for work at universities can’t find any, and the ones who try to go outside the system are tacitly (and in many cases overtly) belittled by their peers, and made to feel that they have failed. i think so many people are appreciating my story because they are starting to realize it’s not necessary to buy into that mentality. there is a whole world beyond the ivory tower, where success is measured by criteria other than how many conference talks you gave last year, how many NIH grants you’ve managed to land, or how many first-author journal publications you have. you can go do something wacky like.. playing poker – and probably get more respect!
so with that, enough about academia! now let’s talk about POKER.
so i did feel a bit disingenuous in terms of my poker credentials potentially being exaggerated in the LA times, and i wanted to clarify that. if you’ve been reading my twitter or this blog you know that i am totally committed to this, and spend all my time playing poker and learning as much as i can about the game. i fully hope (and intend) to join the highest echelons of the poker world. however, i have only been playing seriously for about six months, so by no means do i consider myself a “pro.” i am just starting out and building my bankroll, which peaked in early april at a little over 4K and is now holding at about 2.3K after my recent downswing. i am lucky enough to have some savings to tide me over while i am in hardcore training mode, and i am not living off poker income, though i do think i’ll get to that point within the next few months.
so yeah, just wanted to be transparent about that. i felt super honored to be featured so prominently in a major publication, but at the same time it made me uneasy because obviously i wish i had better poker numbers to show for myself. i don’t expect to be taken seriously by real pros until i have real results. but, i just need to keep reminding my n00b self that it’s not like i’ve been playing poker for 10 years and now decided to turn pro; i started from scratch here. and i am dedicated to this in a way that i have never been to anything else. i have full confidence in my ability to continue to learn, continue to grow my bankroll, and hopefully rack up some major successes in the near future.
one piece of good news is that the downswing has finally leveled off. i dipped under 2K for a little while, which was beyond depressing, but i’ve had a few nice runs and i think i’m back in the swing of things. i’ve had two live lessons and three online lessons with my coach alex, and through him i also got a trial membership on the website for a training program he works for, Deepstacks university. i believe it was started by mike matusow, and they do live bootcamps and stuff, but the website is great because it has interactive lessons given by a lot of well-respected live and online pros, so i’ve been spending some time going through those things. i feel like every time i play i learn something new, and i just get more and more confident!!
i’ve also been working on my live game, and i’ve had a couple recent successes playing low stakes cash games at the card club. last night i went there and sat down at the $100max table (maximum buy in $100, blinds 1/2) and doubled up the first hand i played, and won a couple more pots to end up with $250 in under two hours. i’m finally getting more comfortable playing live, but i still do have trouble with counting chips and figuring out how much is in the pot. i know it just comes with practice so i’m trying to get in as much as i can, though it is not getting any easier for me to stomach the atmosphere at the card club. it’s a dirty degenerate place, full of sad smelly old men with missing teeth and little asian dudes reeking of cigarettes. of course being female attracts insane amounts of letch attention; i only saw one other woman in there actually playing at a table. i jumped in the shower as soon as i got home last night, even though i’d already showered yesterday. i suspect in vegas the poker scene is not quite so seedy.
so i am going to vegas next weekend for my birthday!!!!!! and i’m itching to play either a tourney or maybe just some low stakes cash against the tourists. i’ve been to vegas quite a few times, at least 5 or 6 when i lived in los angeles. my friends and i would mess around at the blackjack tables in old town vegas, but at that time i didn’t even know how to play poker, so i think it’s going to be a much more interesting experience this time. i’m also very excited to meet some of the players i’ve been talking to online who are there for the WSOP. i obviously don’t have the funds to buy into any WSOP events (they start at 1k buy in) but i will definitely be making a trip to the Rio to at least check out the scene.
maybe i’ll see some of you there? :)
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