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Wednesday, May 15 • 11:45am - 12:00pm
(Opening Session) Lessons from the Felt: Thoughts on Risk, Community, and Lifelong Learning from a Poker Player Turned Conservator

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As professionals in a multi-disciplinary field, we naturally benefit from the diversity of experiences gained in academic and craft pursuits. Transferable skills from hobbies and previous occupations contribute to the uniqueness of an individual’s skill set, but what of transferable philosophies? Drawing from a six-year-long stint as a semiprofessional poker player, this presentation highlights aspects of the practice and serious study of a hobby that have informed the personal philosophy of a conservation professional. The parallels between the practices of poker and conservation are manifold and sometimes surprising. Long-term success in poker demands a complete understanding of game mechanics, personal discipline and risk management, strong intuition and interpersonal skills, continuous self assessment and iterative improvement, and engagement with shifts in best practices. A poker player’s education typically begins with low-stakes, fundamental experience; however, as one progresses toward mastery, the ideal approach is often less prescriptive and more nuanced, modulated by a collection of thousands of prior minute decisions. Uncertainty is inevitable and is often the source of stress, and the importance of luck, of course, must be acknowledged. It is in the consideration of minutiae where conservation professionals can learn from the deep study of games like poker. In this talk, three key themes are examined: embracing and managing risk, the importance of cultivating small and large communities with diverse approaches and skill sets, and the necessity for honest self assessment with an eye toward long-term growth. A final note about time investment, opportunity cost, and avoiding burnout ties these themes together with a call for more coordinated, efficient, and open collaboration among conservation professionals.

Wednesday May 15, 2019 11:45am - 12:00pm EDT
Salon A & B, Uncas Ballroom