Dr. Ocean

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Right now I am in the process of writing my personal statement and I am debating whether I should include my experiences with poker in the essay. To give you the background I had doubts about attending medical school after college and in order to make money for myself I decided to play poker. I was a successful player and made money, but playing the game actually steered me towards attending medical school because I felt like I was contributing nothing to society. I decided that I would much rather enjoy being a doctor than to continue this way of life since I would be making a difference. However, I am not sure how med school committees would react to someone that mentions gambling in their essay, even though it was a major factor for me to decide to apply to med school. I also try to make it a point that I am not a degenerate gambler and approached poker with proper strategy, but I am still debating whether to include my whole ordeal with the game. Any opinions would be appreciated.
 

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Dr. Ocean said:
Right now I am in the process of writing my personal statement and I am debating whether I should include my experiences with poker in the essay. To give you the background I had doubts about attending medical school after college and in order to make money for myself I decided to play poker. I was a successful player and made money, but playing the game actually steered me towards attending medical school because I felt like I was contributing nothing to society. I decided that I would much rather enjoy being a doctor than to continue this way of life since I would be making a difference. However, I am not sure how med school committees would react to someone that mentions gambling in their essay, even though it was a major factor for me to decide to apply to med school. I also try to make it a point that I am not a degenerate gambler and approached poker with proper strategy, but I am still debating whether to include my whole ordeal with the game. Any opinions would be appreciated.
wow, this is actually a really interesting/tough question to answer.

I can really see why you think it might be a bad idea to include it, but it would really suck not to be able to tell them that this was sort of an epiphany for you.

I think you might be able to include this, especially if it really means that much to you, but I would try to put some more emphasis on clinical experiences that lead you to it.....like instead of "I was at a poker table and decided, hey I think being a doctor would be a good idea" it would be better if you had an experience like, "Some dude just got busted on the river after going all in and had a heart attack, and I helped/realized that being a doctor is what I should be doing"

It's sort of a tough call though. I think it's ok, you just have to show them that you have some idea of what being a doctor is like......that you know what you are getting into
 

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Do it if you think you can use it to strongly convince adcoms about your pursuit and passion into medicine. It'll be a break from those thousands of essays about kids in Africa, the human body, my grandmother died, etc.
 
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save it for the interview. dont give them a chance to say no before they meet you. if it comes up in the interview on why medicine? then explain it there.
 

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Dr. Ocean said:
Right now I am in the process of writing my personal statement and I am debating whether I should include my experiences with poker in the essay. To give you the background I had doubts about attending medical school after college and in order to make money for myself I decided to play poker. I was a successful player and made money, but playing the game actually steered me towards attending medical school because I felt like I was contributing nothing to society. I decided that I would much rather enjoy being a doctor than to continue this way of life since I would be making a difference. However, I am not sure how med school committees would react to someone that mentions gambling in their essay, even though it was a major factor for me to decide to apply to med school. I also try to make it a point that I am not a degenerate gambler and approached poker with proper strategy, but I am still debating whether to include my whole ordeal with the game. Any opinions would be appreciated.
You know what, call me crazy, but I think it's a terrific idea. You'll have to qualify it a bit though. Like, say that you realized that playing poker was contributing nothing, so you went off and volunteered in a hospital or shadowed a doc and you realized that this was a line of work where you COULD contribute.

However, I really like it. It's a memorable and refreshingly honest anecdote. I wonder what LizzyM and other adcom people around here think about this.
 

Homer Simpson

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It sounds pretty cool to me. I think if you can write about it in an interesting and convincing way and show that you are a responsible person who also has other, hopefully more humanitarian interests, I say why not?
 

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How many people do you think wrote about playing poker in their essay?!?!?!?!

If I was reading over your app I'd be like..."get that poker player in here!!!! he is probably interesting as hell to talk too!!!!!!!!!!!!"

TP
 

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Dr. Ocean said:
Right now I am in the process of writing my personal statement and I am debating whether I should include my experiences with poker in the essay. To give you the background I had doubts about attending medical school after college and in order to make money for myself I decided to play poker. I was a successful player and made money, but playing the game actually steered me towards attending medical school because I felt like I was contributing nothing to society. I decided that I would much rather enjoy being a doctor than to continue this way of life since I would be making a difference. However, I am not sure how med school committees would react to someone that mentions gambling in their essay, even though it was a major factor for me to decide to apply to med school. I also try to make it a point that I am not a degenerate gambler and approached poker with proper strategy, but I am still debating whether to include my whole ordeal with the game. Any opinions would be appreciated.
Wow.

Cool post.

I'm a private practice anesthesiologist who lives in a gambling city, thus affording me the opportunity to play against tourists in the local casino who think they know as much as Phil Helmuth.

I, like you, have made money playing poker. I play at no limit Texas Hold'em tables at Harrahs....and the tourists have padded my bank account with their "knowledgable" play....

I think worded the right way, your experiences could be an asset....introduce your experiences scientifically...."I studied the game, and being a people-person, was able to identify "tells" easily....and accelled at the game......all the while spending time with my three year old daughter, frequent impromptu outings with my lawyer wife," etc.....

yes.

incorporate it somehow, albeit in an "acceptable, non-smoking/drinking/all-or-nothing way" and your experiences could separate you from the crowd.
 

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Absolutely not. This is similar to the "damn in ps" thread from a few days ago. The potential rewards just don't justify the risks. You also might try asking this question in the general section here: http://www.internettexasholdem.com/phpbb2/ , but I suspect you'll get the same response.
 

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rcd said:
Absolutely not. This is similar to the "damn in ps" thread from a few days ago. The potential rewards just don't justify the risks. You also might try asking this question in the general section here: http://www.internettexasholdem.com/phpbb2/ , but I suspect you'll get the same response.
What are the risks, exactly? And didn't LizzyM say it was ok to use "damn" in the PS?
 

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Dr. Ocean said:
Right now I am in the process of writing my personal statement and I am debating whether I should include my experiences with poker in the essay. To give you the background I had doubts about attending medical school after college and in order to make money for myself I decided to play poker. I was a successful player and made money, but playing the game actually steered me towards attending medical school because I felt like I was contributing nothing to society. I decided that I would much rather enjoy being a doctor than to continue this way of life since I would be making a difference. However, I am not sure how med school committees would react to someone that mentions gambling in their essay, even though it was a major factor for me to decide to apply to med school. I also try to make it a point that I am not a degenerate gambler and approached poker with proper strategy, but I am still debating whether to include my whole ordeal with the game. Any opinions would be appreciated.
I LIKE it... However you must tread lightly.
 

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jetproppilot said:
Wow.

Cool post.

I'm a private practice anesthesiologist who lives in a gambling city, thus affording me the opportunity to play against tourists in the local casino who think they know as much as Phil Helmuth.

I, like you, have made money playing poker. I play at no limit Texas Hold'em tables at Harrahs....and the tourists have padded my bank account with their "knowledgable" play....

I think worded the right way, your experiences could be an asset....introduce your experiences scientifically...."I studied the game, and being a people-person, was able to identify "tells" easily....and accelled at the game......all the while spending time with my three year old daughter, frequent impromptu outings with my lawyer wife," etc.....

yes.

incorporate it somehow, albeit in an "acceptable, non-smoking/drinking/all-or-nothing way" and your experiences could separate you from the crowd.
I'm not sure how much I would trust a doctor that uses the word "accelled" :rolleyes:

Sorry I couldn't help it, but seriously? Accelled? Every doctor must have striven for EXCELLENCE at some point. Come on now. Accelled?
 
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ArminTamzarian said:
C'mon, how much do you want to gamble with your future?
Nice. To the OP: I wouldn't do it. Too risque in my humble opinion, but that seems to be your nature so... your call.
 

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ADeadLois said:
What are the risks, exactly? And didn't LizzyM say it was ok to use "damn" in the PS?
There aren't too many ways to completely screw up medical school, but when people do it seems that it involves A) drugs B) mental illness or C) gambling. Medical school administration types seem pretty skiddish around those issues, so as a general rule don't touch any of them with a 10 ft pole in your PS.

To the OP, I see no reason why you can't say "After college I was able to support myself but felt that my work didn't contribute anything meaningful to society" or some such garbage.

Don't mention gambling (period).
 

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Everyone plays poker now... right? right?

I'd say go for it. Just don't come off as a huge risk/reward type of gambler. But hey, that just might fail because you decide to write poker in your ps.
 

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imagine reading this:

"After I graduated from college, I decided to bet on horses for a living. I believe that horse betting involves a great deal of skill. Before every race, I do my homework on every horse and use my best judgment as to which horse will win. After successfully betting on Black Beauty and making thousands of dollars of easy money, i have decided to pursue a career in medicine. I believe that through medicine, I will be able to touch many more lives than betting on horses."

i play poker a lot too. but i wouldn't write about it... the problem is you can use the "contributing to society" argument with anything.

"I was the french fry guy at Mcdonalds. I quit because I decided that french fries wasn't helping enough people and I was not getting enough human interaction. I believe being a doctor will help a great deal more people than being the french fry guy.l"
 

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I guess it shows life experience. You were at a low point and your new dream of medicine brought you back from the ashes like a resurrecting phoenix.

If it's how you feel I don't think you can change that for any school. You are surely going to get a why medicine question on secondaries and again at the interview.
 

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I would go ahead and includ it. It sets you apart from the crowd, and actually has meaning to your life. I wouldn't fret too much over content, your statement isn't the make or break. :love:
 

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Take everyone you read here with a grain of salt. There's a good reason to not include it, and that's because it may make your PS sound offbeat and irrelevant, or even worse, make you seem like a person that's not truly interested in medicine. For the upside, if you can spin poker into a great essay, like contrasting how taking your best hand and then playing it with all you have and relating that to going into medicine, then it'll interest adcoms into interviewing you. Remember, the point of the application is to get adcoms to interview you. After that, it's all striclty on your shoulders.
 

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Darkshooter326 said:
I would go ahead and includ it. It sets you apart from the crowd, and actually has meaning to your life. I wouldn't fret too much over content, your statement isn't the make or break. :love:
Although I agree with the 'setting you apart' comment, I think it will set you to different positions depending on who is reading the PS. For instance, I would say, "wow, what an interesting path....and how honest." While I could see an old guy on the ADCOM for a bible-belt region college thinking, "what an addictive personality...do we really want a guy that seriously pursued gambling as a means to make money...(most importantly) is the most telling part of this persons life their obsession with gambling (they are weiging your PS versus those sob stories of developing AIDS clinics using money raised from selling Kool-Aid as a child in the pouring rain). :D

As mentioned above, this is interview material. You can dynamically amend your story in the interview if the looks you are getting look grim!
 

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Haha! Do you really think that medical schools are looking for interesting people? Wahahahaha! Why then do 90% of applicants have the same stupid courses, extracurriculars, and hobbies? Medical schools are looking for generic prepackaged comely robots.

Lets play a game. I'm going to list some extracurricular activities. They are mostly bull**** and have very little to do with predicting a successful medical education and a productive/honorable career. However, some are viewed well and others are viewed neutrally/poorly:

1) Avid fantasy book reader
2) Church volunteer
3) Philosophical nihilist
4) Serious blogger
5) Olympic gold medalist
6) Tantric sex expert
7) Online Political satirist and humorist for unknown website with lower viewership.
8) Published researcher in immunohistochemistry
9) Oragami champion
10) Amateur florist

So...which ones would you want to have on your medical school application? Number two, despite being trite, lame, and the epitome of conformity looks great. Despite being completely irrelavent, (5) is fantastic! (8) is also good, and (9) or (10) couldn't hurt. The other five, on the other hand, are freaking awesome, but they wouldn't help nearly as much. (1) would make you look like an immature 15 year old. (3) won't fly because the person reading your application is probably unfamiliar with the tenets of nihilism (and nihilism gets a very bad rap). (4) is silly. (6) is considered inappropriate by the damn puritans. (7) is marginal at best even if you frame it perfectly.

Lets face the facts. Admins look for activities which are well known and have an uncontroversial and unambiguous good repuation. They are looking for packages, and gunners who know how to play the game build themselves as packages from very early on. Poker does not fit this mold. If you include it, include it out of honesty and don't expect it to improve your chances.
 

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Obviously, this thread lacks unanimous support for either side, but like most unorthodox personal statement topics, I believe that it is certainly possible to stand out if you can successfully present your story and connect it to medicine.

Therefore, I think the best thing for you to do is to definitely implement gambling into your personal statement with two warnings:

a. Make damn well sure that you establish a clear connection to medicine (in this case, wanting a job that had societal impact.)

b. Have people read your PS (and not just SDN people, adcoms are usually middle-aged if not seniors). It is best to take their advice as they will probably have similar interests as adcoms.

Either way, best of luck.
-Dr. P.
 

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SirTony76 said:
How many people do you think wrote about playing poker in their essay?!?!?!?!

If I was reading over your app I'd be like..."get that poker player in here!!!! he is probably interesting as hell to talk too!!!!!!!!!!!!"

TP
SirTony expresses my feelings exactly. You'd be memorable; the poker player" would be your nickname to the members of the adcom.

I presume that you were playing where this type of gaming is legal. Adcom members are medical school faculty so they tend to be more liberal that the surrounding community so you needn't worry about the "bible belt".

I think that you can highlight not only your desire to have meaningful work but that the skills that made you successful as a poker player can also be useful in clinical medicine: coolness under pressure, an ability to think "on your feet" and to think strategically -- you'll think of some others.

Good luck!
 

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LizzyM said:
SirTony expresses my feelings exactly. You'd be memorable; the poker player" would be your nickname to the members of the adcom.

I presume that you were playing where this type of gaming is legal. Adcom members are medical school faculty so they tend to be more liberal that the surrounding community so you needn't worry about the "bible belt".

I think that you can highlight not only your desire to have meaningful work but that the skills that made you successful as a poker player can also be useful in clinical medicine: coolness under pressure, an ability to think "on your feet" and to think strategically -- you'll think of some others.

Good luck!

I agree with the above. Also OP, the above quoted response by LizzyM is by an adcom member somewhere in the country.
 

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Lets face the facts. Admins look for activities which are well known and have an uncontroversial and unambiguous good repuation. They are looking for packages, and gunners who know how to play the game build themselves as packages from very early on. Poker does not fit this mold. If you include it, include it out of honesty and don't expect it to improve your chances.
This is just not true. They don't specifically look for "well known and uncontroversial activities". That's just what they usually get, because everyone thinks that's what they want. The truth is, physicians are people too. Believe it or not, that stuffy old man reading your application may have had a real wild streak when younger and get a major kick out of reading about someone unique and different from the rest of the pack.

If PROPERLY phrased, your background could truly set you apart from the crowd. If you were really able to support yourself with poker, then I suppose you could consider yourself a professional poker player. Just as in poker, medicine requires skill and CALCULATED risk taking, as well as maintaining a calm and commanding demeanor when surrounded by chaos...just ask any surgeon or interventionalist. However, I can't emphasize enough that it must be properly phrased and integrated with your desire to contribute to society.

As someone finally at the end of the entire process (9 LONG years...just finished my subspecialty fellowship), I have a new and different perspective of the application process. I know I would certainly want to interview someone like you, although I have to add that I am an amature player myself. Be advised though, that some may be turned off by your background. Some schools are very traditional, i.e., overly structured and unwilling to consider unconventional students. However, having said that, I really wouldn't want to attend such a school. It is a gamble, but then again, isn't everything? :cool:
 

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i think the bottom line is this...

the people on SDN are split like 50/50 about including it.

imagine adcoms being split 50/50 about it. would u really want to take those chances?
 

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As a poker-player/gambler, you hope to play against people who are addicts and/or intoxicated. These people probably give away more money than anyone else but at the same time what else can you say about these people? They have medical problems and you're hoping as much as anything else to have them at your table. The point is, going from gambling to medicine is as close to a 180 as there is, and it would be very hard to convince someone you're sincere.

Also, did you declare taxes on your winnings (out of curiosity).
 

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As a poker-player/gambler, you hope to play against people who are addicts and/or intoxicated. These people probably give away more money than anyone else but at the same time what else can you say about these people? They have medical problems and you're hoping as much as anything else to have them at your table. The point is, going from gambling to medicine is as close to a 180 as there is, and it would be very hard to convince someone you're sincere.
No offense intended, but this post is most likely from a knowledgeable and well meaning, but "wet behind the ears" premed. Again, these statements are just not true. First of all, most of the people who play are neither addicts nor intoxicated. Secondly, making a major career change is not necessarily a negative thing.

Prior to med school, I was a stock broker. Granted, it is a more accepted form of gambling, but gambling nontheless. At every place I interviewed, people only wanted to talk about my past career. They seemed really interested in talking about the profession, but more than anything, were fascinated that someone would "gamble" with their life by making a "180" degree turn and starting an entirely new profession. It was not viewed as a negative, on the contrary, it was viewed in a positive light and seperated me from the pack.
 

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PainDr said:
No offense intended, but this post is most likely from a knowledgeable and well meaning, but "wet behind the ears" premed. Again, these statements are just not true. First of all, most of the people who play are neither addicts nor intoxicated. Secondly, making a major career change is not necessarily a negative thing.

Prior to med school, I was a stock broker. Granted, it is a more accepted form of gambling, but gambling nontheless. At every place I interviewed, people ONLY wanted to talk about my past career. They seemed really interested in talking about the profession, but more than anything, were fascinated that someone would "gamble" with their life by making a "180" degree turn and starting an ENTIRELY new profession. It was not viewed as a negative, on the contrary, it was viewed in a positive light and seperated me from the pack.
I'm not disagreeing with what you're saying DrPain, but I think you missed my point. Most people who gamble are not alcoholics or gambling addicts as you said. But you welcome them if they are because they give away their money. In that sense, you are taking advantage of people with (what can be considered) medical problems. But, if the poster believes he can convince adcoms he is on the other end of the spectrum, I agree with you wholeheartedly, it would be impressive and favorable for his/her application. I just think it would be a hard thing to prove.
 

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There are some very good and eloquent posts in this thread advocating both sides of the argument.

I think the success of such a PS would ultimately come down to your charisma. If you put together a mediocre and shallow PS about poker, it can definitely be more of a liability than asset. However, if you can manage to lighten the stigma of poker as gambling and coherently tie it to your dreams of being a doctor, it can open some doors for you. I would also work on filling in the gap of gambler --> doctor. You said you wanted to do something constructive for society? Simply saying becoming a doctor seems depthless to me; there are dozens of other professions that contribute as much or more to society than a physician. Try to incorporate some specific personal experiences that led to that decision-- maybe about something on the poker table... maybe not-- your call.

And to PainDr's post, I find it humorous that gambling like poker is viewed as an immoral activity while gambling in the form of investing is considered a legitimate occupation if not a prestigious job. It would things much simplier if the original poster was an Ibanker.
 

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The disagreement on this thread brings up the point that you can't write a personal statement to please everyone. If you show your PS to 10 friends or mentors, you will get 10 ideas for revisions or overhauls. Similarly, 10 admissions committees reading over you personal statement cannot be expected to have the same reaction to it.

Ulitimately, you need to weigh the pros and cons YOURSELF, and decide whether the calculated risk of writing a stellar and noteworthy PS that may also be frowned upon is worth it. Personally, I feel that the places that look down upon that kind of personal statement might not be the best fit for you anyway. But it all depends on where you want to end up, and what your personal convictions are. That's why it's called a personal statement.
 

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And to PainDr's post, I find it humorous that gambling like poker is viewed as an immoral activity while gambling in the form of investing is considered a legitimate occupation if not a prestigious job. It would things much simplier if the original poster was an Ibanker.
LOL :laugh: I couldn't agree more.

I guess the bottom line is this, if the OP spent a substantial amount of time (even if it was only several months) as a "professional player", the application requires that he/she account for that time. I suppose my take on the situation is that it would be better to really play it up and use it to his/her advantage rather than try to hide it. In the end, honesty is always the best policy.

The OP is the only one who knows his/her motivations for choosing medicine. If they are sincere and able to explain their motivations, they should be able to come up with an interesting and eye catching PS. However, the PS is just the beginning. I agree that in this situation, personal charisma is a must have. Just because I'd be interested and intriqued by such a background on paper doesn't necessarily mean I'd be impressed with the person in an interview.
 

LizzyM

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As a physican , you hope to care for people who are addicts and/or intoxicated. These people probably spend more money than anyone else on health care but at the same time what else can you say about these people? They have medical problems and you're hoping as much as anything else to have them at your office. The point is, going from gambling to medicine is not much of a leap.

;)
 
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I was under the impression that the addicts and drunks couldn't afford health care and went to the ER to get it for free, lol. But that's just a stereotype, I guess.
 
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Dr. Ocean

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Thanks to everyone that has given their opinions as there have been some really insightful comments. After reading the responses, I think I will include my poker experiences in my statement. This tread has shown me even though some adcom members might react negatively to my essay, there might be some out there as well that would still be willing to interview me. I figure the worse that will happen is I do not get interviewed. If that occurs, then I guess when I re-apply I will take the poker stuff out.

Also, in my statement I make sure to mention my clinical experiences as well. The reason why I wanted to include poker as well in my essay is that it was a major catalyst in my decision to apply to med school. For the poster who mentioned the french fry guy, at least with that job the person would still be doing something productive in my opinion. Poker on the other hand is a selfish way of life. For recreation it is fine, but playing the game constantly made me miserable. There are other reasons as well why I want to be a doctor, and I will include those in my essay as well. Once again, thanks to all the responses and I look forward to being a member on these fourms.
 

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Robizzle said:
i think the bottom line is this...

the people on SDN are split like 50/50 about including it.

imagine adcoms being split 50/50 about it. would u really want to take those chances?
Ah, that's the crux of it!

You can go the poker essay route and offend 50% of the adcoms and impress 50% of the others. Or you can go the typical premed route and try to write something so safe that you offend 0%. And as a consequence, get a ho-hum reaction from the other 100%.

You can't write something that truly impresses some without turning off others. But if you don't impress anyone, you'll be lucky to squeeze on by.

Premeds are herd animals by nature. Not all med schools are looking for sheep.
 

ParvatiP

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My boyfriend is really into poker and is playing online now as his summer job, so I've learned a lot about the game from him and changed a lot of my initial preconceptions. I think you should use the experience in your PS because I think it will help you more than hurt you. You just have to be careful as to how you work it in. I like some of the previous posts that suggest linking medicine to poker in regards to risk taking, strategy, etc. I would stray away from saying why you made the switch from poker to medicine, but tying the two professions together would work very well I think. Good luck!
 

Flopotomist

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I agree with the poster above - it depends on the level at which you were playing. If you were playing at the big table with Chan, the Unambomber and Doyle - then you really should put it - if another poker player stumbles on your PS, they will be fascinated to interview you and hear your stories.

If you were playing at the 3-6 limit table at your local card club - that is really not terribly impressive, and I wouldn't put it.
 

Lanced

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You need to have a convincing, well thought out paragraph about how you decided to go into medicine. I think "I want to contribute to society" is very common but not enough on its own.

I think if you do not make poker the central theme but just mention it cleverly in a couple sentences it could be quite novel and therefore contribute something.

As long as you've done what you need to do -- i.e. demonstrate with experiences your interest and committment to medicine, etc. I think overall the poker experience will be an asset, if only because its novel.
 

jetproppilot

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Monette said:
I'm not sure how much I would trust a doctor that uses the word "accelled" :rolleyes:

Sorry I couldn't help it, but seriously? Accelled? Every doctor must have striven for EXCELLENCE at some point. Come on now. Accelled?
oohhhh....sorry....

Excelled.....

feel better?
 

Haemulon

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I'm a right decent poker player myself, but definitely not including it in my app. I think the issue here is using any one activity to justify a complete change in career motiveation and dedication, especially to medicine. Forget that its gambling, could be any hobby, recreation, or minimum wage job for that matter. Simply realising that "hey, this isn't really valuable for society or very rewarding for myself, therefore Medicine must be my calling!!!!" (even with the required bridging explainations inserted) is a really tough sell. Really boils down to the whole "i want to help people and society" motiveation. Which does not specifically point towards medicine. You could serve soup at a homeless shelter to help people and save the 7+ years of medical training. See my point? Add to this the fact that your particular activity is gambling, and it become even more suspect. Interesting yes, but also suspect.