MBAs play poker in Vegas to win job at Caesars

Jan 25 2013, 16:07 IST
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Nearly 300 MBA students and alumni anted up for a three-day Texas Hold 'em poker contest. (AP) Nearly 300 MBA students and alumni anted up for a three-day Texas Hold 'em poker contest. (AP)
SummaryNearly 300 MBA students and alumni anted up for a three-day Texas Hold 'em poker contest.

Gupta, who is in his second year at the University of Southern California's Marshall School of Business. “I was not really stressed out about losing my buy-in. It was cool just meeting people in an environment where you wouldn't normally have that interaction.''

Some aspiring business moguls who did not land interviews still walked away from the tournament at the Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino with cash prizes approaching $8,000. Candidates had to ante from $85 to $225 to enter the eighth annual tournament, depending on how much they hoped to win.

Caesars appears to be the only casino to pit potential hires against each other around a card table. But more companies are turning to this kind of "event recruiting'' to compete for top candidates, though job seekers are not usually required to pay to play, said Emily Taylor, who teaches career management at UCLA's Anderson School of Management.

“I think it's a great strategy by Caesars,'' she said. “The economy is improving and we're starting to see firms trying to distinguish themselves in different ways.''

Creative gambits also allow recruiters to establish a cultural match more quickly, said Lisa Feldman, executive director of MBA career management at the University of California, Berkeley's Haas School of Business.

Last fall, a division of Amazon.com Inc. sponsored a Friday-night party for Hass students, she said. Neutrogena Corp. invites students to write essays about skin care to win admission to a cocktail party. And one real estate investment management firm in Newport Beach, Calif., flies standout students to a golf tournament.

These events are designed to tell a story about the company, Feldman said, and the Caesars tournament told one, too.

“The gesture of having a buy-in kind of says, “We're about real money,'' she said.

John Unwin, CEO of the Cosmopolitan Las Vegas, which competes with Caesars, said his hiring managers also like to observe candidates interacting with one other, but they create those situations without a mound of chips.

He said poker fit more directly in Caesars' wheelhouse.

“They love poker. They own the World Series of Poker,'' he said.

The game also seems to have taken hold in MBA programs, with schools such as Wharton and the University of Chicago Booth School of Business setting up their own regular card games.

Plant said poker may one day eclipse golf as the preferred pastime of the business elite.

“It's becoming more of a way for people to interact with each other and

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