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The 22 Biggest Poker Players On Wall Street

poker

Photo: Photoshopped by Business Insider, Photos from Wikimedia Commons

We’re right in the thick of the World Series of Poker, which means we’re right in the thick of one of Wall Street’s favourite past-times.And this year has been no exception; finance guys have already made quite the splash over the past few weeks. Hedge funder David Einhorn took third place in the most expensive tournament ever and JPMorgan VIX trader Jeremy Wien has been tweeting up a storm about his game. 

We figured it was only right to update our list of these poker-playing Wall Streeters.

Cliff Asness, AQR Capital

Asness' poker game was also brought into the limelight in the book 'Quants,' which devoted a chapter to an epic Wall Street poker night at the St. Regis hotel. Attendees also included Peter Muller, Ken Griffin and Boaz Weinstein, among others.

Today, Asness is a member of the committee that organizes this now-annual poker night, which benefits the maths for America foundation.

Ken Griffin, Citadel

Griffin was also a part of that 2006 Wall Street poker night and now serves as the honorary chair of the annual maths for America poker tournament.

Chris Fargis, Toro Trading

Fargis, unlike our other choice players, came to finance by way of poker. The young Brooklyn-native caught the attention of an online poker competitor, who recommended him for a trading job with Toro.

Although Fargis had made quite the name for himself (and not to mention some pretty good money) in the online poker circuit, it seems like he's thrown in the towel.

From Fargis' blog '20-One Outs Twice':

Good luck to all my friends playing the Main Event!
It's been two years since I posted anything here. I don't play any poker these days. However, life is very good.

Glad to hear life is good, even without poker.

Jeff Yass, Susquehanna International Group

If there's a poster child for the similarities between poker and finance, it would be Jeff Yess, one of the founders of Susquehanna International Group (SIG)

In an interview published in 'The New Market Wizards,' Yass explained how he started loving the game in college:

My friends and I took poker very seriously. We knew that over the long run it wasnt a game of luck but rather a game of enormous skill and complexity. We took a mathematical approach.

And the similarities he sees between poker and options trading, he explained in the same interview:

The basic concept that applies to both poker and option trading is that the primary object is not winning the most hands, but rather maximizing your gains

It comes as no surprise then that poker has pervaded the culture at SIG. In 2009, the firm hosted a poker tournament in Ireland looking for new training trainees.

Scott Redler, T3

Redler, a constant fixture on the Wall Street poker scene, loves pointing out the similarities between poker and finance. Here's what he told ABC News in 2009:

'Poker is a trader's game,' Redler told ABC. 'Roulette, blackjack, those are based more on luck. But with a game like No Limit Texas Hold 'Em, you need patience and discipline, or in other words the exact same skills needed to be a good trader.'

Steve Schonfeld, The Schonfeld Group

The billionaire proprietary trader is also a poker fanatic and managed to walk away victorious after bellying up to the tables with other billionaires when he won the Forbes Billionaire Poker Tournament (a charity event) in October, 2009.

Jim Simons, Renaissance Technologies

According to Rachel and William Ziemba's 2007 'Scenarios For Risk Management and Global Investment Strategies' Simons played poker seriously at MIT and used his expertise when he started Renaissance Technologies, using gambling concepts to dictate trading models.

Boaz Weinstein, Saba Capital Management

Weinstein, the prodigal Deutsche Bank trader and now Saba Capital manager, began playing poker in college and quickly mastered the game.

In 2005, Warren Buffett invited to play in a poker tournament, where the then 32-year-old won a Maserati.

He became just as good at black jack, and his since been banned from the Bellagio in Las Vegas for card counting.

(He's also an ace chess player)

Carl Icahn, Icahn Partners

Icahn has reportedly said that his first investing stake ($4,000) was made by playing poker in the US Army after his years at Princeton.

His poker game then landed Icahn in TIME magazine in 2005 while playing with professionals at the Bellagio in Las Vegas. Here's how it went down according to TIME:

In a $40,000 game, he wound up as one of two players left in a hand of seven-card stud. Icahn had two pairs; his opponent was showing four to a straight. The pro tipped off Icahn that he had seen his cards and said that because Icahn was an amateur, he felt obliged to tell him so. The pro then bet the table max: $4,000. Icahn, who had been about to fold, announced to the table, 'I learned a long time ago that in big business and big poker, there ain't no nice guys,' and matched the bet. His two pairs prevailed.

He's known to host private poker games at his East Hampton home.

Steve Cohen, SAC Capital Management

Before he was taking home $1 billion a year, Cohen was winning big (at least relatively so) from all night poker games with his high school buddies, according to the Wall Street Journal.

As an undergrad at the University of Pennsylvania Cohen 'studied economics, played poker and took an intense interest in the stock market,' the Journal reported. He eventually started trading to pay for his tuition.

Like some of our other featured wall Streeters, Cohen has said that there's a relationship between how he plays poker to how he trades stocks.

Bill Chen, Susquehanna International Group

It's no surprise poker sensation Bill Chen ended up at SIG, considering the firm's 'hires are given copies of 'The Theory of Poker' and 'Hold 'Em Poker' and spend one full day a week studying the game by playing it,' according to the Los Angeles Times.

Chen stands out from his coworkers, however, competing in pro tournaments and supporting his Wall Street income with some substantial winnings on the Pro Poker Tour.

On his LinkedIn, Chen describes himself as a 'Quantitative Analyst/Poker Player at SIG.'

Jason Strasser, Caption Partners

Strasser turned a love of online poker as an undergrad at Duke into a lucrative pro career before taking a job at Morgan Stanley as a Derivatives Trader in 2007.

He now serves as the co-founder and chief investment officer at Caption Partners, listing poker as an interest on his LinkedIn profile.

Aaron Brown, AQR Capital

James Vogl, Moore Capital Management

Vogl won a coveted bracelet during a World Series of Poker event in Las Vegas in 2004, at age 24, beating 800 other players, and earning himself $400,000 in tax-free profits in just one hand.

'I've got a knack for risk and reward games. I spent a lot of time practicing, learning the game and the odds, doing the calculations,' says Vogl, who admits he's disciplined and highly competitive.

SEE ALSO: Meet 30-Year Old James Vogl: Moore Capital's Star Poker-Playing Trader

Peter Muller, Morgan Stanley

Peter Muller, founder of Morgan Stanley's Process Driven Trading Group, may just be the best of the best of Wall Street poker players.

In 2010, Muller beat 104 other Wall Streeters to take a large pot at a charity tournament.

Quant king Muller has won a ton at the poker table and made the final table of the $3,000 Limit Hold 'em event at the 1998 World Series of Poker. He also came 4th at the World Poker Challenge.

He's still on the World Poker Tour, though he says he now mostly plays online and cash games instead of tournaments. He used to bring his dog to tournaments with him, as a good luck charm.

David Einhorn, Greenlight Capital

So prodigious are the poker gifts of the incredibly successful hedge fund manager that he won $660K in a tournament this May. He donated the money to charity before dropping $200 million on 49% of The New York Mets.

And just last week Einhorn piqued our interest once again, coming in third place in the 'Big One for One Drop' poker tournament.

Source: NBC Sports

Steve Beigleter, Flexpoint Ford

Begleiter, who used to head corporate strategy at Bear Stearns, made the final table at the main event of the World Series Poker in 2009.

He came sixth, and won $1.26 million.

Daniel Shak, SHK Asset Management

Andy Beal, Beal Bank

Beal dropped out of college to play poker and made enough in winnings to start what is now the billion dollar Texas-based Beal Bank.

'During the height of his poker playing days, he would play some of the biggest names in the game for pots that often exceeded $1 million,' the WSJ reported.

Carl Icahn once said of Beal, 'I always thought of myself as a good player. But I'm not in his league.'

Chris Ferguson, former prop trader

Chris 'Jesus' Ferguson, who won the World Series main event in 2000, used to trade at a prop trading firm and has won five World Series of Poker events in total.

Ferguson isn't all luck, though. He's been caught up in the charges around the legality of Full Tilt Poker, the firm he was associated with.

Michael Platt, BlueCrest Capital

A source tells us that Michael Platt of BlueCrest Capital, the fourth-richest hedge fund manager in the UK, is also something of a poker player. It seems to us that he keeps his game relatively quiet, leaving little for us to find on the internet.

Jeremy Wien, Head of VIX Trading, JPMorgan

You may not know this guy, but he's slowly but surely climbing his way up the poker ladder. During last year's world series, Wien, who recently became head of VIX trading at JPMorgan, outlasted crowd-favourite Einhorn and is off to a similarly promising start this year.

Lucky for us, Wien tweets about his games. Follow him at @wienjeremy.

BONUS FACT: Gus Levy loved poker too

It's rumoured that the late Goldman Sachs senior partner Gus Levy used to use poker as an interview tactic. We'd love to see what this looked like.

We're guessing there's going to be a lot of card games soon for these hedge funders...

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