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After six years as an in-house patent attorney at Pfizer Inc., Gregory Raymer has put away his regular business attire for a while. Instead, he’s donning snake-eye glasses and plastic Mardi Gras beads as he embarks on a new career as a professional poker player. In fact, Raymer can pretty much afford to wear anything he wants. After netting a cool $5 million in May by winning the 35th annual World Series of Poker in Las Vegas, he thought about sticking with his day job at Pfizer’s branch in Groton, Connecticut. But after a couple of days, he figured “there was no way” he could cash in on his newfound fame as a poker player and keep up with his work at Pfizer. So he gave notice, packed his files and left the world of patent law two weeks later. Poker, as you can imagine, is a serious subject for Raymer. He’s been playing for 10 years, almost as long as he’s practiced law. Although he originally relegated his gaming to weekends and vacations — Pfizer’s internal software blocks access to online poker sites — Raymer says he still managed to log about 600 hours a year. He played in tournaments and cash games on the Internet and at an Indian casino a few miles from his home in Connecticut. He claims that he’s made a profit every year. Raymer’s hobby was no secret around the office. “Someone would always want to hear the latest war story,” he says. By the time he made it to the final nine-person table at the World Series of Poker, “it was all anyone was talking about,” some of his Pfizer colleagues told him later. Since joining the pharmaceutical giant in 1998, Raymer worked primarily on shepherding biotech inventions through the patent process. In addition to a law degree from the University of Minnesota, Raymer holds degrees in chemistry and biochemistry. He says his science background gives him a leg up on poker’s statistical nature. But the similarities between his old job and his new career end there. “Poker and patent law really don’t have all that much in common,” he says. Nor does he tend to see many lawyers at the gaming tables. The ones who do show up tend to be trial lawyers who, he says, are “less risk-averse.” As for those snake-eye glasses, he bought a pair a couple of years ago at Walt Disney World and began wearing them regularly while sitting at the poker table. The reptilian gaze, he says, helps him to intimidate his opponents. “It’s easy to have a stare-down when you don’t blink. Some people can’t even look at me.” He completes the look with plastic beads around his neck and a collection of fossils that he uses to hold his cards. Raymer says that he plans to play poker professionally for at least a year, if not longer. “If I end up doing this for the next 30 years, it might get old.” In any event, he’ll always have patent law to fall back on. Tamara Loomis is a staff reporter at the New York Law Journal, an ALM publication affiliated with IP magazine.

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