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Poker Player, Venture Capitalist, and Benefactor

Recent UNLV grad Perry Friedman is intent on sharing his good fortune with fellow Rebels.

People  |  Aug 10, 2016  |  By Launce Rake
Perry Friedman holds poker chips

UNLV Boyd School of Law graduate, poker player, venture capitalist, and scholarship donor Perry Friedman. (R. Marsh Starks/UNLV Photo Services)

Professional poker players know Perry Friedman. He’s the guy who won the $1,500 Omaha Hi/Lo Tournament at the 2002 World Series of Poker and has won cash in dozens of other tournaments.

Gaming and computer programming wonks know Perry Friedman. He’s the coder and venture capitalist who has put his stamp on the industry.

And UNLV William S. Boyd School of Law faculty and students know Perry Friedman — he’s the guy who established a scholarship for fellow students in his last year of law school.

Boyd students Michael Viets and Marckia Hayes received the Perry Friedman Civil Liberties Scholarship in the 2015-16 academic year. The scholarship benefits one student every fall and spring semester.

Friedman’s academic career is as varied as his paid gigs. He received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Stanford University in mathematics and computer science. Although his early degrees were more about numbers than words, he signaled early in his academic career that he had an interest in the law and public policy. While at Stanford, he was elected to the Student Conduct Legislative Council and unsuccessfully fought against a campus speech code.

“I fought hard against the code because I feel very strongly about protecting the First Amendment,” Friedman said. “This is especially important on college campuses where the free flow of ideas is essential for academic freedom.”

Eventually, the courts struck down the code.

Fast-forward two decades. Friedman has had his success in poker, computer programming, and startup companies. His wife encouraged him to go back to school — this time, to pursue his passion for the law. He graduated this spring, and Friedman has already set his sights on doing pro bono civil liberties work.

“I hope to fight for justice and help protect the liberties and freedoms that make this such a great country,” he said. “I also want to encourage others to help protect those rights. … As lawyers, we have an opportunity to do a lot of good for others.

“Because of my unique situation, I was thrilled to be able to give back to the UNLV community, while also encouraging and rewarding others who want to give back to society by fighting for civil liberties,” he said. “I hope that Boyd continues to produce outstanding lawyers who are ethical and responsible members of society. I hope, and I know, we can do many great things in the future.“