Recruiters pluck poker talent at MBA tourneys

Las Vegas Strip

For the fourth straight year, some of the best young business minds in America will meet in Las Vegas for a recruiting conference - along with a little bit of poker.

Harrah's announced last week that the fourth annual MBA Poker Championship will take place over the Martin Luther King holiday weekend at Caesars Palace Las Vegas.

The weekend's three tournaments - a $225 buy-in main event, a preliminary $65 tournament, and a $150 second-chance event - are all open to full-time and part-time M.B.A. students and alumni who are of legal gambling age.

In what may or may not be a coincidence, global management consulting firm Booz & Company and hangover prevention drink Aftershot are sponsoring the event.

According to the MBA Poker Web site, entrants in this year's event will have a shot at over $100,000 in cash and prizes, a threefold increase over last year's prize pool. As in the past, a portion of the prize pool will be donated to the Alzheimer's Association, which has already benefited from $30,000 in donations from the event over the last three years.

Last year's event saw over 1,000 players from the best business schools in America, including Harvard, Kellogg, Stanford, UCLA, University of Chicago Booth School and Wharton, turn out for the MBA event.

Although the climate this year isn't ideal for the business world, Harrah's is still betting on a significant turnout this weekend.

"MBAs are more creative than ever in the avenues through which they seek employment, and we are confident that despite the economy, this year's event will continue to attract top MBAs to Vegas," said Brad Warga, Harrah's Entertainment vice president of talent acquisition.

"We've leveraged the worldwide recognition of our World Series of Poker brand to attract MBA poker players and spectators alike to Caesars Palace Las Vegas for what is undeniably one of the most creative recruiting events in the U.S."

At a time when poker is being attacked by state and federal governments in the United States as a luck-based enterprise, the willingness of a major management consulting firm to use the MBA Poker Championship as a recruiting venue would seem to lend credibility to the idea espoused by academics like Charles Nesson of Harvard Law School that poker is a game of skill and strategy with real-world applications.

Nikki Rath, Senior Manager of Campus Recruiting for Booz & Company, noted in the MBA Poker press release that a talent for poker hints that a player will be successful in business as well.

"Good poker players think quickly on their feet, have a high quantitative aptitude, and tend to be good at diagnosing people and situations - all attributes highly coveted by our firm. For that reason we will be leveraging this event to offer on-site interviews to first year MBA players who wow us throughout the weekend."

Of course, after working hard these MBA students also like to party - so in addition to the poker tournaments, Sunday's agenda will feature the MBA Championship Beer Pong Tournament at nearby O'Shea's Casino on the Strip.

Presumably that event's finalists will go heavy on the Aftershot so they can be in good shape for the awards ceremony and prize distribution that close out the weekend.

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