Billionaire David Einhorn Uses Poker Skills in Business and Vice Versa

Published on 11 July 2014 by Pokerlistings 1134
David Einhorn is a fantastically successful hedge fund manager whose net worth is estimated at $1.6 billion. He's also a passionate poker player and he told that he uses many of the same skills to succeed both in business and at the poker table. Einhorn has pledged 100% of his poker winnings to charity and in 2012 he was able to donate his entire $4.5 million prize from finishing third in the WSOP Big One for One Drop. This year Einhorn was the first player eliminated from the One Drop but he's back and has made it into the money in the $10,000 Main Event. Einhorn had a seriously deep run in the Main Event in 2006, finishing 18th, and he'll be looking to beat that result this year. Einhorn speaks thoughtfully and frankly about poker, business and where he thinks the United States is headed. Check out the full interview and keep watching for the latest news and video from the 2014 World Series of Poker.
David Einhorn: I think there's lots of things you'd wanna compete against the best in the world. The problem is, no matter how much I play tennis, I'm never gonna be out there with Federer, Nadal, and all that, you know, in any kind of way. And with poker, it's an interesting game. And on any given day, lots of different things can happen; and you can match wits, and have different strategies, and you can compete with the best, and maybe they'll get you more often than not but at least you have a fighting chance.

Yeah, it's fun, you know, they call this the World Series of Poker and when you tell people you are in poker or I'm gonna play in the World Series in poker, they wonder if you had to win your division in the league championship and a few rounds of playoffs in order to get in. And the truth is, is anybody who can buy in and wants to put the money in and compete, can sign up and do it. I think that's a really cool thing.

Sometimes there's a hand, and maybe it's just almost like it's set up, and that's just how it is. And it's a hand of poker and, you know, that doesn't happen very often. And next time it'll happen, it'll probably happen in my benefit. In fact, when I did well in the One Drop a couple years ago, I doubled up on a hand that I absolutely needed a double up on a set over set if the cards have been reversed, you know, I would have busted out. So, these things even out over time and you just got to enjoy it and take it for what it's worth.

I like the Big One for One Drop, it's a great event. It's a lot of fun because it gets the best players together in a relatively small competition with reasonably good stakes, and different people would look at it from different perspectives. You know, I'm very fortunate and aside from giving away all my poker winnings to charity, I get to give lots and lots of money away every year to a large number of charities. So, for me, it's just one extra way to give away a little bit extra money and have some fun while I'm doing it.

When you look at the poker players, you get the whole bell curve, you have all the different strategies. You've got guys that are in there like every hand and how is it that they-, you know, win pots with these strange cards. And then there's other people who show up once an hour to play a hand, and you wonder how they don't fall sleep from boredom, you know, finally waiting for their hand to come. And that's what's interesting about the game, is you got different people, right minds with different strategies playing them out against each other, and then throwing in a wide range of variants.

We get into meetings, when you get into meetings with people and you ask them questions, and you're trying to find out what their strategy is, or what they're doing in a business context. And, you know, sometimes there's what they say, and then there's something... it's what they express on their face or what they mean, which might not be the same thing as what they actually say. And you have to drive that from body language and other types of behavioral techniques detecting, you know, there's lots of times where people in the business world might not be telling the truth. And part of my job is to sometimes figure out when that's true, when it's not true. And I think you're trying to do the same thing in a poker table, even though the exact methods that you're doing that are a little bit different.

This is a great country, and we've made enormous progress. And I think to answer that question, all you have to do is look backwards as opposed to look forwards. In other words, if you think about how was the United States 150 years ago when we were having a Civil War and coming out of slavery. Compare that to how we were 50 years later, compared to 50 years after that, compared to where we are now. And when you look at the progress that has happened, I mean, would you rather live now or 150 years from now? And to me, I just think that the trend of progress is just inevitable. And so, 50 years from now or 100 years from now, they're gonna be doing things we can't even imagine. And they're gonna be looking back at us, almost the same way we are looking back at people now who lived in the 1950s.

Well, first of all, there's nothing obviously wrong with some people doing better and some people doing worst. If you wanna set up a system where people are motivated to do the best that they can, well then some people when they do better than other people, actually have to have some rewards that comes from that. And the second thing is the safety net, the bottom, as awful as it is, and believe me I'm fighting this, playing this tournament for a Robin Hood which is fighting poverty in New York, and we need to do things to fight poverty. But again, along the lines of what I just said before, poverty today is not the same thing as it was poverty 100 years ago. So, progress is happening. It's maybe not happening at the speed everybody wants it to, but that's just the nature of time.

I don't know is poker is a microcosm for something bigger. But certainly, it is a skill game, and there's a variance, and that does mimic life. I mean, people who make better decisions in life probably get better outcomes, but not all the time. There's variance around that you can do everything right, and you can get extremely unlucky, and that can happen in both circumstances. And you can do the wrong things and come out smelling like roses, and that happens in both things but not very often. Usually, if you make the better decisions, you get the better outcome.