When Jenny Just’s husband brought their 13-year-old daughter home from a tennis lesson back in 2013, he was frustrated. Though their child was a good tennis player, she was just “getting the ball over the net” and not strategizing based on her opponent’s strengths and weaknesses.
“She needs to learn how to play poker,” Just remembered her husband, Matt Hulsizer, saying offhandedly.
Just, who works in financial technology and is one of 23 self-made women billionaires in the United States, couldn’t stop thinking about her husband’s remark. She agreed that poker, which encourages strategy, decision-making and confidence, could teach her daughter how to play to win.
So Just gathered 10 teenage girls, mostly eighth graders, for four 60-minute lessons taught by a local poker player in their hometown just outside of Chicago. The lessons were originally supposed to be just for the teenagers, but their mothers asked if they could learn, too. Jenny Just. Maggie Rife / Rife Ponce Photography “It was like lightning in a bottle,” said Just, who started her career as an options trader, a position that is dominated by men. She later went into financial technology and now co-owns PEAK6, a global multi-billion-dollar fintech company, with Hulsizer.
In the first lesson, the girls paired up unnecessarily, whispered to each other and shared chips if someone lost. But by the fourth lesson, Just noticed a world of difference. “They’re sitting up tall. They’re barely peeking at their cards. They’re not talking to anybody. And nobody’s taking those chips from them,” she recounted.
To continue the experiment, Just asked a Chicago schoolteacher—and poker enthusiast—to help build a poker curriculum for female high school students in three neighboring states. After the Covid-19 pandemic made in-person games impossible, Just took the program online and created Poker Power , an educational platform for women to learn the game in a safe, non-monetary environment. It features 12 one-hour learning sessions, all taught by women, as well as opportunities to play practice games with other women in the community.
Approximately 10,000 women in 40 countries have gone through the program since Just started it three years ago. She […]