Molecular & Cellular Biology

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MCB, Law, and Limelight on the World Poker Stage

MCB, Law, and Limelight on the World Poker Stage

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

by Kelly Minkin

Picture of Kelly Minkin at a poker table

When I enrolled at the University of Arizona for undergrad, I had my heart set on medical school.  I scrolled through the science majors and asked my then boyfriend’s dad, who was a general surgeon, what would be the best undergraduate degree to prepare for medical school.  He said, “Well pre-med would be your best bet.”  We searched through the majors and saw that there was no “pre-med” major.  His next recommendation was Molecular and Cellular Biology – so that’s what I chose.  I found MCB to be an incredibly rigorous and competitive major, and noticed that I was surrounded by many bright young individuals – I loved that.  I am competitive at heart, and strive to be shoulder-to-shoulder with the best.  To be honest, I struggled with many of my classes, but fought hard and was determined to complete my degree, which I did in the spring of 2011.  It was the most proud and accomplished I had ever felt.

In my last year or so of undergrad, I took an elective called “Bioethics” with Professor Pimentel, which was an entire class on just that – the ethical and moral concerns and dilemmas within biology and the medical field.  I was absolutely enthralled.  I finished at the top of my class, and was a preceptor for Bioethics the following semester.  After some serious anxiety about taking the MCAT, a decent score on an LSAT practice test, and a few lengthy discussions on law and medicine with Professor Pimentel, I chose to pursue law school.  By this time, all the deadlines for the big schools had passed, and I didn’t want to wait a year.  I filled out one application to Phoenix School of Law (now Arizona Summit Law School), was accepted with a partial scholarship, and took the leap.  Shockingly, law school was not nearly as competitive or difficult (in my opinion) as the curriculum of MCB.  The scientific reasoning and analysis I learned throughout my years within MCB helped immensely.

After class, I started playing poker at the local casino.  I began playing in the smaller games, and moved up in stakes as I could.  Long story short, I ended up regularly playing the 3-5 No-Limit game at Talking Stick Casino, and was making a decent profit.  The summer before my last year of law school, I had my first big tournament cash at the Arizona State Championship for around $150,000.  Now, I had the “bankroll” to play bigger games and more tournaments, so I did.  I graduated from law school in April of 2014, and immediately started traveling for tournaments before I had to buckle down to study for the Bar.  After multiple tournaments and slim results, I came back home and took an LSAT prep class.  Now, studying for the Bar was the most challenging thing I have ever done.  Failing was not an option for me.  I took the Bar in July 2014, and had to wait until October to find out if I passed.  When the results were posted online, I scrolled through the list of names and when I read my name I cried.  Now this was the most proud and accomplished I had ever felt!

I began working for Kent & Wittekind, P.C., whose work is primarily medical malpractice defense.  I was able to incorporate my passion and love for the medical field, my MCB degree from U of A, my poker skills, and my natural knack for logic and reasoning – I had my dream job.  I explained to the firm that I did play poker somewhat professionally, and they were willing to be flexible enough to let me travel occasionally for tournaments.  I was sworn in on January 13, 2015, and officially became a licensed, practicing associate attorney.  A week or so later, I won my first tournament at the Los Angeles Poker Classic for $55,000.  A few weeks after that, I traveled to Florida for the WPT Lucky Hearts Tournament and placed in third for $260,000 – my boss ordered pizza for the firm and they watched the final table on live stream!  I flew home and went back to work the next day.  I worked hard when I was in the office, and worked hard when I was playing in tournaments.  I had a few more cashes over the summer at the World Series of Poker, and was the “last woman standing” at the Main Event – I placed 29th for over $200,000.  Given all of my results in 2015, I was named the Global Poker Index Women’s Player of the Year.  Yes I was working full-time.  No I did not quit my job!

Some people have a hard time understanding why I would not opt to play poker full time, given my success, but success is individually defined.  Success to me is being able to come into work every day loving what I do, and not being worried about the paycheck.  Success to me is feeling fulfilled and knowing that I am an advocate for people who rely on me.  Success to me is living a purposeful life, surrounded by loved ones.  Success to me is balance and foundation.  I am fortunate to have found my niche in life at a young age.  Every aspect of my life, each right decision, all the hard work, and every mistake has lead me to this point.