Facebook VP Palihapitiya Goes Deep at WSOP

Chamath Palihapitiya
“I would crush Zuck heads-up.”

At age 34 Chamath Palihapitiya has had an illustrious career and, as it turns out, he’s been playing poker the entire time.

Fresh out of college Palihapitiya was working for an investment bank on the East Coast as a derivatives trader and was taught how to play poker by his managing director.

Fast forward a few years and he was scheduling phony meetings so he could go play the $200/$400 game at the Borgata casino.

Fast forward 10 years and he’s the outgoing VP of User Growth at Facebook, about to re-enter the venture capital world with his new project The Social+Capital - and still finding time to play poker.

Palihapitiya was at the World Series of Poker today and narrowly missed his first final table, finishing 15th out of 2,828 in a $1,500 No-Limit Hold’em event.

This was Palihapitiya’s fifth tournament in the last few weeks here in Las Vegas. He’s here with his family on vacation after the birth of his second child.

“Honestly the money is irrelevant,” Palihapitiya told PokerListings.com.

“The respect and the mental fortitude it shows to win a WSOP bracelet is just incredible,” he said.

Palihapitiya has held high-ranking positions in companies like AOL and the Silicon Valley venture capitalist firm The Mayfield Fund, but a WSOP bracelet is something he’ll have to keep working for.

“It would mean everything to win one,” he said.

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“The respect and the mental fortitude it shows to win a WSOP bracelet is just incredible.”

Palihapitiya has been playing poker for more than a decade and is no stranger to high pressure poker games.

“There was a time in 2003 or 2004 when I was taking it really seriously and spreading a lot of the games at the Borgata,” he said.

“I would book myself into phony meetings all day Friday and I’d literally be at the Borgata from Thursday night to Sunday night and then I’d go back to work on Monday,” he confided to us.

With a growing family and an increasingly demanding role at Facebook, poker has been relegated to a hobby for Palihapitiya, but that doesn’t mean he’s willing to give it up entirely.

“It’s a very important part of my life,” he said.

“It’s one of the few things I have that allows me to break away from what’s otherwise a really intense job.”

According to Palihapitiya there’s a weekly game within the Facebook offices, although Founder Mark Zuckerberg isn’t a participant.

“I would crush Zuck heads-up,” Palihapitiya said with a laugh.

Chamath Palihapitiya was born in Canada and graduated from the University of Waterloo.

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