Talal Shakerchi: “I Feel Comfortable Playing Against Any Opponent”

Hedge-fund manager Talal Shakerchi competes in the world's highest-stakes poker tournaments and says the only thing holding back wealthy amateurs is experience.

Shakerchi’s family is originally Arabian but has lived in England for three generations. He holds a degree in computer science and is one of the richest people in the City.

And he drives a Volkswagen.

During a break at the EPT London High Roller event Shakerchi explained just how seriously he takes poker and who he respects the most in the high-stakes world.

PokerListings: Mr. Shakerchi, you are a hard worker in the finance industry and play poker recreationally. Aren’t the two actually very similar?

Talal Shakerchi: They are similar, but there is a difference. If you play a poker tournament, there is a limit to how much you can lose.

It’s a very contained kind of game, whereas in the financial markets there are much more complex aspects of risking and losing money.

A tournament ends after a couple of days, but financial markets keep on going all the time. I really think that no one will ever understand financial markets completely.

PL: You and Dan Shak are two of the most successful business men to play high-stakes poker. Can you compete at that level?

Talal Shakerchi
Shakerchi playing in the world's first $1 million buy-in poker tournament.

TS: It is hard to judge yourself, but I would say I feel comfortable playing against any opponent in the High Roller and Super High Roller tournaments.

PL: For the last two or three years you've been playing with the absolute elite high-rollers. Which live players do you respect the most?

TS: I respect most the players who made the transition from online to live poker.

They have a deeper understanding for the mathematics when it comes to small chip stacks, ICM and all that. But I don’t want to single out players really.

Ok, the Germans are pretty good: Fabian Quoss, Philipp Gruissem, and Christoph Vogelsang are exceptional for sure.

PL: Which amateur who played the One Drop could survive as a poker pro?

TS: Any of these high rollers, if they would really get involved could become good pros.

Okay, I’m not commenting on Bill Perkins (grins). But for example Guy Laliberté. Everybody thinks he is terrible, and it is true that he makes some unusual plays.

But it is only lack of experience. Dan Shak for example is for me absolutely underrated. His game is more complex than most of his critics think.

PL: Is poker constantly on your mind?

TS: Of course. I really study the game. If you would have a look on my book shelf you would find 60 poker books there.

I play the online majors every Sunday. There are lots of training videos online and I’m checking the 2+2 forums on a daily basis. I’m not just showing up at tournaments and that’s it.

PL: Do you only play MTTs online?

Talal Shakerchi
"I never sell shares and I never stake other players."

TS: Yes. I like to play the large-field tournaments. My favorites are the SCOOP and WCOOP tournaments, by a mile.

Absolutely no online cash games and I have no clue about Sit-n-Gos either.

PL: Are you only playing with your own money?

TS: Yes. I never sell shares and I never stake other players.

PL: Meditor Capital, the hedge fund that you own and manage, contains 3 billion GBP in assets and gives every profit to charity ...

TS: Stop, no. The fund itself – which has the same name – doesn’t give the profits to charity. The company that manages the fund, which is my company, gives all its profits to charity.

PL: Then how do you make money?

TS: I made my money through working in the past.

PL: Is it actually possible to be a hedge fund manager AND a philantropist?

TS: Why not? We are in an age a little bit comparable with Victorian times in the 19th century.

There are very wide income discrepancies and it’s possible for some people to accumulate a lot of wealth in their lifetime.

Mostly in these days, these would be hedge fund managers or founders of technology companies.

Now you can argue about if that is a good or a bad system. But it is the system we live in.

So the question is, what will people do with that wealth? Different people come to different conclusions. The decision of Meditor was to give the profits to charity.

By the way, I’m driving a Volkswagen and the intellectual competition to me is more important than the money.

PL: Have you heard about Raising for Effective Giving, the charity project of Philipp Gruissem, Igor Kurganov and Liv Boeree?

TS: Yes, of course. I spoke with the guys before they started it and I liked the way they were thinking.

And of course, I could help them out with one or two of my thoughts and experiences.

In poker, like anywhere else, you have some people who definitely take more out of society than they bring into it. It’s good that guys like Philipp and Igor try to balance this out.

Interview: Christian Henkel and Dirk Oetzmann

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