Starting at any new job, let alone a hedge fund, at the age of 33 would be daunting for many. A new work area means different and uncomfortable challenges, and a shift in mindset may be necessary to cater for any unfamiliar ground lying ahead. For Vanessa Selbst, the most successful woman ever in tournament poker, it seems that a challenge is exactly was what she was looking for, as it was revealed that she has joined Bridgewater Associates to learn about hedge funds.
According to Bloomberg, the former professional player, who amassed $11.9 million in poker prize money over 12 years, joined the firm to focus on trading research and strategy. Bridgewater Associates is the world’s biggest hedge fund with over $150 billion in assets under management. The firm was founded in 1975 by Ray Dalio and has its corporate headquarters in Westport Connecticut.
Poker and hedge fund management have many similarities for Selbst, as she outlined in a public Facebook post on December 31st:
“The environment feels a lot like poker did back in the day -- a bunch of nerdy kids collaborating to try to beat our opponents at a game. It’s also really freaking difficult.”
Hedge funds are acquiring talent in increasingly untypical ways, and the hire of Selbst is an example of Dalio’s firm thinking differently. However, Brooklyn-born Selbst’s change in heart with regards to her career didn’t necessarily come from a longing for working in investment management, but more so after poker grew into too much of a “real job”.
In her post, Selbst spoke highly of poker and the people she came into contact with over the years:
“Poker has given me so much over the last 12 years. It has been intellectually challenging, exhilarating, fun, and extremely rewarding. It has given me the opportunity to travel to places I might never have experienced, and forge friendships with people from all over the world. Speaking of those people, those whom I’ve met through the poker world (players and industry people alike) are some of the most dynamic, creative, out-of-the-box thinkers and all around passionate people that I know.”
Selbst’s Yale University undergraduate and law degrees will certainly be of service in her position at Bridgewater. The 3-time WSOP bracelet winner admitted in her post that trading is an avenue she would never have pursued previously:
“I’m following in my mother’s footsteps (she was an options trader turned lawyer and recreational poker player), which would have upset the hell out of me ten years ago, but makes me really happy now.”
The position, while exciting, is not without its difficulties:
“Every day I think I’m getting the hang of it, the next day I fail at the next challenge. It’s exhausting, exciting, and completely humbling.”
In the year preceding her retirement announcement, Selbst worked part-time at a police misconduct plaintiffs’ law firm, a position that she felt didn’t suit her. She acknowledges that hedge funds too may not work out, citing the difficulty of finding a new career when her previous one was “so much damned fun”. While her days of professional tournament and online poker may be over, Selbst admitted in her post that she will never truly stop playing!
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