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Your next job interview: Raise or fold?

The Philadelpha Inquirer published an article last month about Susquehanna International Group L.L.P.'s inaugural college Texas Hold 'Em poker tournament, a way for the company to learn how would-be employees handle decision making under pressure by watching how they handle themselves at a real money poker tournament, where first place is worth $25k.

"Poker and trading have a lot of similarities, such as making good decisions under pressure," Yass [cofounder and managing director of Susquehanna] said. "It teaches you to deal with losing even when you make the right decision."

Yass said the game remained instructive, even as exchanges moved to electronic trading, where computer screens substitute for human interaction.

Besides traders, the company is hiring programmers and research analysts.

John C. Giesea, president of the New York-based Security Traders Association, said trading firms more often judged job candidates on whether they had participated in sports, or how long it took them to order lunch.

"I always felt there were a lot of comparables between trading and athletics: the ability to act under pressure; the ability to make quick, on-the-fly decisions; and the ability to admit a mistake as opposed to overlooking it and forging ahead," he said.

Susquehanna isn't alone in the realization that poker can be a good supplement to or substitute for a formal business education. Bill Gates is perhaps the most famous, but certainly not the only, member of the billionaire community to have gotten his start around the green felt, and with books like The Poker Face of Wall Street and The Poker MBA, the community is officially taking note of a phenomenon that has long been an unofficial part of business culture.

A knack for statistics and, of ultimate importance, tenacity and coolness in the face of apparent failure, valuable traits in any high-pressure endeavor, are strengthened and tested by the game, making it both a breeding ground and a good testbed for the power players of tomorrow.

Stacey Briere Gilbert, a Susquehanna options analyst and former American Stock Exchange trader, said the company was looking for job candidates who let the odds be their guide.

"Over time, you're not lucky; it's statistics that are in favor of you," she said. "Poker can teach you that you can lose a lot, but still be profitable in the long run."


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