How to Turn Poker Skills into a Promising Career

As the chair of the accounting degree program at Globe University-Madison East, I learned very quickly that each of my students has a unique story to tell.  Here they all sat in the same Intermediate Accounting class, hoping to learn the same things, but each coming from a different background, and all having a different goal in mind.

accounting degree

Ray Hinman's career as a professional poker player translates well into his new path of accounting.

All of my students stand out to me, but one in particular piqued my interest.  You must first know that I grew up in a family that LOVES to play cards.  Every family gathering includes a euchre tournament, a poker game, a 500 game, and sometimes all three!  On the first day of class, as we completed introductions, one of my students, Ray Hinman, proudly announced he is a professional poker player.  I had to know more.  Why go from being a professional poker player to an accountant?

Ray started out going to school approximately 17 years ago, but soon learned he wouldn’t be able to finish school due to financial concerns.  He became more and more interested in the game of poker, and started reading many books on the subject.  He soon found himself traveling throughout the country playing in poker tournaments.  He’s even played against some of the card sharks you see playing on the World Series of Poker.

To sit in class with Ray, one immediately learns he is an excellent mathematician.  Ray is able to run calculations in his head faster than other students can complete them with a calculator.  Here’s another reason I became fascinated with Ray’s story:  When asked how he became successful playing poker, he stated, “It is all math, and knowing how to read people.” 

I was immediately taken back to the Kenny Rogers song Gambler; “You’ve got to know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em, know when to walk away, and know when to run…” 

But math?  How is math involved?  You must know the probabilities of getting a winning hand, and be able to run those calculations very fast in your head, which Ray did with ease. 

My next question:  Why accounting?  Due to some health issues, Ray was forced to give up part-time employment as a caregiver.  Since he loved numbers, he decided it was time to go back to school to finish his accounting degree so he can assist companies with budgeting and payroll.  Ray will make a great accountant for a lucky company once he graduates.

By Emily Olson, Accounting Program Chair, Globe University-Madison East