Inside The Sold-Out Poker Tournament Attended By Whitney Tilson, David Einhorn, And Other Hedge Fund Big Shots


Photo: Julia La Roche for Business Insider

Hundreds of hedge funders, bankers and many others filled up Manhattan’s gorgeous Gotham Hall last night for a sold out charity poker tournament. REACH (Rewarding Achievement)–a nonprofit co-founded by T2 Partner’s Whitney Tilson and funded by Bill Ackman–hosted its third annual “Take ‘Em to School Poker Tournament.” 

REACH’s mission is to help students from under-served schools in New York City get into college by taking Advanced Placement (AP) courses and passing the AP exams.  To achieve this, REACH offers free Saturday AP prep courses at Baruch College to students from 30 different City schools.  In return, the students get a Subway sandwich.

To date, the nonprofit has had nearly 19,000 students participate in its workshops.  

The annual poker tournament attended by Greenlight Capital’s David Einhorn and pro poker player Andy Frankenberger is REACH’s main fundraiser.

We attended last night’s tournament and it was awesome.  And if you missed it, we’ve got all the photos you need right here. 

First off, the event venue, Gotham Hall, located in Midtown Manhattan, was absolutely stunning.

Hundreds of financial professionals were there. All 250 poker seats were sold out well in advance of the event. The other 150 or more guests imbibed on cocktails and played casino games in the periphery.

Ji-mei Ma, REACH board chair and managing director at Nebula Capital, gave opening remarks and thanked guests. She told Business Insider that REACH resonates with her because education was a huge part of her background in terms of changing her circumstances. She immigrated to the U.S. at age six and grew up in project housing. Because of education and her mentors, she graduated from Smith College and has been on Wall Street for 14 years now.

'It resonates mostly through my father who came over here from Colombia and how he wasn't really given too much opportunity and I figure this is kind of a way to give kids now, to parents who came over from all these other countries, to give them the opportunity to go one step further,' Michael Sabat, Reach Poker Committee Chair and equity derivatives sales trader at Sanford C. Bernstein, told Business Insider.

Sabat told Business Insider that he works from 6:45 a.m. to around 6 p.m. and sometimes later. In addition to his office work, he spent the last four months planning the event and sent around 10,000 emails for it. His fellow committee members and board members recognised him last night for all his hard work.

Karim Abouelnaga, who is a first generation college student raised by a single mother, was part of REACH's inaugural class. He ended up graduating from high school passing five AP exams and received several scholarships. This summer he's interning at BlackRock and last semester he earned a 3.9 GPA at Cornell.

Here's Michael Sabat with Andy Frankenberger, a professional poker player and former equity derivatives trader who has bracelets from the World Series of Poker.

Michael Sabat with Paul Britton, founder and CEO of Capstone Investment Advisors

Roy Behren (managing member of The Merger Fund) with Michael Sabat

And here's Michael Sabat with David Einhorn, the founder of Greenlight Capital who also finished 3rd in the one million dollar buy in at WSOP.

Ji-Mei Ma and Aleem Mawji of Nebula Capital

Here's Whitney Tilson's table.

Here's Paul Britton's table. Other table purchasers included Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, Sean Dobson and Roger Taylor of Amherst Securities, David Einhorn, Scott Litman and Christopher Beall of Highstar Capital, Integral Derivatives, Jacques Garibaldi of Landon Park Investments, Christopher English of Magnitude Capital, Martin Shkreli of MSMB Capital, Jason Mudrick of Mudrick Capital, Bill Ackman of Pershing Square Capital, Steve Kuhn of Pine River Capital, John Sabat of S.A. C. Capital, Michael Sabat of Sanford Bernstein, S. John Ryan of Seward & Kissel and Whitney Tilson of T2 Partners.

Here's Whitney Tilson striking a pose for us. That's Andy Frankenberger in the shot.

John Sabat from S.A.C. Capital with Whitney Tilson

And here's John Sabat again. He's Michael Sabat's brother in case you were wondering.

That's pro poker player Andy Frankenberger in action.

Here's Einhorn making a poker face.

Just before 9:20 p.m. Einhorn, who has played in the World Series of Poker, was knocked out of the tournament. Here he's getting some high fives. There were also prizes for those who eliminated Einhorn and Frankenberger.

(Left to Right) Roy Behren with Michael Doniger. Doniger is the poker player who knocked Einhorn out of the tournament.

Audrey McNiff (former Managing Director and co-head of Currency Sales at Goldman Sachs) and Candace Lau-Hansen (JPMorgan managing director)

Deirdre Swider with her dog Lela.

Magnitude Capital's Christina McCasland and Milagros Bernabo

(Left to Right) Shankar Murugavell (Mudrick Capital), Ryan Bretrell (Royal Capital) and Aaron Zimmerman (Pine River Capital Management)

(Left to Right) Tia Breakley (Blackstone), Cassandra Metz and Dana Muldrow

(Left to Right) Sid Ahluwalia (The Carlyle Group), Andrew Myers and Matt Humbaugh

(Left to Right) Blackstone's Maria Dedios, Roberta Steele and Maggie DeFilippo

(Left to Right) Frank Curzio, Jiayi Chen, Tom Dyson and Gregg Hamerschlag (Chairman and CEO of Primary Wave Media)

(Left to Right) Kwane Thomas (institutional trading VP at Sanford Bernstein) and Quintano Downes (Principal at Kipling Jones & Co.)

(Left to Right) Ross Behren, Brandon Lawrence (The Madison Square Garden Company), Brian Stutman and Tia Breakley (Blackstone) all playing Blackjack.

Guests enjoyed a bunch of different casino games. The craps table was particularly popular.

At the event, there was a silent auction.

There was a lot of autographed sports memorabilia up for grabs.

There was also a live auction, which featured dinner for 12 in your home from Rao's in New York and a luxury villa in Anguilla, just to a name couple of items.

And, yes, there was plenty of food being served.


And drinks, too.

Of course, all the fun and games was for a much bigger cause. Check out this informational video about the work REACH does.

Want to see Wall Street doing more charitable work?

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