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Poker News | World Poker News

Poker and Wall Street: Deal a Winning Hand

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Anyone who has ever played poker or dabbled in the stock market knows risk taking is involved, so it is no surprise that some of the biggest names on Wall Street are also some very good poker players. In fact, some of the most successful suits on Wall Street started out as poker players and credit poker with getting them where they are today.

Take into consideration that value, risk, discipline, patience, and the inventory of your competitor are just a few of the useful tools used in stock or bond trading. Look at the same tools and you can see they are also some of the most valuable attributes that winning players use at the poker table. Because of these shared principles, it may not be surprising to learn how many of the brightest minds in the financial world play poker, but what may surprise you is that they are just as good on the green felt as they are behind their desk. Here are just a few of the poker playing Wall Street warriors who have made their mark on the street and on the felt.

Andy Beal – Beal Bank

One of the most famous names in both poker and financial circles is without a doubt Andy Beal. While in college, Andy started his own business in real estate by buying a residence and renting it out. Beal continued to wheel and deal and now owns a billion dollar Texas-based bank named appropriately Beal Bank – with a branch in Las Vegas. Commenting on his poker game, the Wall Street Journal reported, "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."

Beal still occasionally can be spotted in $1 million game and once lost $16.6 million to poker king Phil Ivey, which was chronicled in the book “The Banker, The Professor and the Suicide King” by Michael Craig. In spite of his losses, Beal is still recognized as the poker player who won more money in a poker game in a single day than any other known poker player. Carl Icahn once said of Beal, "I always thought of myself as a good player. But I'm not in his league."

Carl Icahn - Icahn Partners

Icahn has said he "generated his first investing stake by winning $4,000 playing poker while in the US Army after graduating from Princeton." In 2005, Time magazine reported that Icahn was at the Bellagio in Las Vegas, playing against professionals, where in a $40,000 game, he wound up as one of two players left in a hand of seven-card stud. The pro said he had seen Icahn's hand, and Icahn almost folded before stating, "I learned a long time ago that in big business and big poker, there ain't no nice guys." Proving his poker and business savvy, Icahn won the hand. He is known to indulge his love of the game by hosting private poker games at his East Hampton home.

Chris Fargis - Toro Trading

Chris Fargis was a successful online poker player who had won about $137,000 before someone from the poker world recommended him to the Toro Trading Firm. In 2006 he won the World Champion Deuce to 7 Triple Draw $10,000 buy-in World Series of Poker Circuit Event in Tunica, Mississippi. He was hired in 2009 and feels like he ‘got out’ of the poker scene and it was the right time and place to take a new look at life. He still makes it to Las Vegas to play the World Series of Poker now and then.

Bill Chen and Jeff Yass - Susquehanna International Group

Bill Chen may be just one of the many guys at Susquehanna that have a passion for poker, but what sets Chen apart is that he is very successful at the tables. He took a second place finish against Phil Ivey in WSOP Event #37 $3,000 HORSE in 2010.  In 2007 he won two gold bracelets during the WSOP.  Chen is a PokerStars pro. Chen continues to supplement his Wall Street income with poker or is it poker with Wall Street income? 

Jeff Yass says that he started playing poker during college where "My friends and I took poker very seriously. We knew that over the long run it wasn’t a game of luck but rather a game of enormous skill and complexity. We took a mathematical approach." Since being in the market, he thinks it is like a giant poker game, "and you have to pay very close attention to the skill level of your opponents." Believing that poker has elements essential to successful trading,

Susquehanna once held a poker tournament to select trainee traders for its European operations and new hires are given copies of "The Theory of Poker" and "Hold 'Em Poker." After hitting the poker books, they then spend one full day a week studying the game by playing it.

Steve Schonfeld - The Schonfeld Group

Known as a poker fanatic, billionaire proprietary trader Steve Schonfeld faced off against billionaires in the 2009 Forbes Billionaire Charity Poker Tournament. He walked away the winner, earning him not only bragging rights, but also a huge amount of respect from his poker playing peers for his winning style.

James Vogl - Moore Capital Management

At just 24 years old, James Vogl cashed in three events at the World Series of Poker in 2004, winning the $2,000 No Limit Hold em event for a gold bracelet and $400,000. Vogl admits he's disciplined and highly competitive, "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."  

Peter Muller - Morgan Stanley

Peter Muller was a constant online poker player and is still a familiar face on the World Poker Tour. Since Black Friday, he can be found mostly playing cash games instead of tournaments. At the 1998 WSOP, Muller made the final table in the $3,000 Limit Hold 'em event where he came in fourth for $30,780. He also placed fourth for $98,022 in a 2004 WPT event and cashed fourth again in the 2005 NLH Euro Finals of Poker event for $1,704. His secret to success at the tables? He used to bring his dog to tournaments with him, as a good luck charm.

Steve Beigleter - Flexpoint Ford

Steve Begleiter headed corporate strategy at Bear Stearns for 25 years, which he credits with helping him to remain calm during the two weeks of intense play in the 2009 WSOP Main Event. Arriving at the final table via the Newcastle Poker Tour and poker league, he expressed his intention to share 20% of whatever he won with his hometown poker league, which turned out to be $1.26 million for sixth place.

Chris Ferguson - Former prop trader

Probably the most famous professional poker player with a trading background is Chris "Jesus" Ferguson. He used to trade at a prop trading firm, before quitting to focus on poker. Whether his trading background or his Ph.D. in Computer Science from UCLA is the basis for his success doesn’t matter. He took the tournament poker world by storm and has collected five WSOP bracelets and won over $7,713,800 by cashing 129 times. Away from the felt, Ferguson continues to trade stocks.

Since the events of April 15th, 2011, many talented poker players have been looking for something to do online to fill the poker void in their lives. Not only are many turning to live poker, but some are looking to online trading. Not only does trading and poker share many similarities, but trading can actually afford a greater money making potential – if they play their cards right.

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