Talal Shakerchi: When Stakes Get High, Pros Can Get Rattled

Most people find a $1 million buy-in poker tournament unfathomable.

Talal Shakerchi considers it to be fairly comfortable stakes.

This, Shakerchi said, is what gives him an advantage over top-name pros in the largest buy-in tournament on the planet.

“In poker it’s always bad if the money means too much to you,” Shakerchi said. “So you gotta play like, ‘Hey, these are just chips and they don’t matter.’

“But if you get along in that event you can end up playing around the bubble, you can play pots where the equity in the pot is $1.5m, $2m. For some people that’s a lot.”

Not for Shakerchi.

Talal Shakerchi
They're just chips.

Managing Money Old Hat

Shakerchi manages Meditor Capital Management Ltd, a London-based hedge fund firm worth about $3 billion.

This gives Shakerchi a seemingly endless bankroll, but the English businessman says there are stakes he’d be hesitant to play.

“For anyone there’d be a buy-in that would make them nervous. I think I wouldn’t play at that point if it was a buy-in where I thought my decisions were to get affected significantly.

“I don’t think you should ever play poker scared, you should always play from a position of strength.”

That’s the same reasoning Shakerchi has used to build his multi-billion dollar empire. While Shakerchi has been playing poker for about five years, he’s been managing funds and money for decades.

Shakerchi says that many of the skills he developed as a businessman helped him when he started learning poker.

“[Poker] overlaps a lot with what I do in my work, which is managing money,” Shakerchi said.

“A lot of the same considerations come into play, like dealing with incomplete information, balancing risk and reward, reading people and how people respond in big money situations.”

“I think the two activities are complementary and I think a lot of good fund managers would make good poker players if they applied themselves and vice versa.”

$50k just a chance to play with good players.

Two EPT High Roller Titles Already in Short Career

Shakerchi has undoubtedly had success as a hedge-fund manager. In his short career as a poker player, he's managed to accumulate $1.73 in live tournament earnings.

More than half of those earnings come from two high-roller victories at the EPT.

In 2012 Shakerchi took down the €10,000 NLHE 6-Max Turbo High Roller at the EPT Grand Final in Monte Carlo for €223,000. Then, a year later, Shakerchi won the £10,000 NLHE High Roller at EPT/UKIPT London for £436,330.

Shakerchi has shown that he can hold his own against the pros. But aside from the challenge, Shakerchi enjoys playing with the best because he ends up learning from the best.

Despite not being very familiar with some of the games, Shakerchi is currently in the $50,000 Poker Player’s Championship.

Shakerchi enjoys the challenge of facing the world’s best players but tournaments like the Poker Player’s Championship also gives him the best poker lessons money can buy

“In an event like this you bump into a lot of the best players and I’m constantly learning as I’m going along,” Shakerchi said.

“There are lots of very good players and it’s interesting to see different styles work successfully as well.

“In poker there’s no one accepted approach to the game. There’s accepted ways to deal with certain situations but there are a lot of different ways of dealing with different circumstances.”

Jean-Robert Bellande
Being backed can constrain what pros can do.

Some Pros Narrow Ranges When Stakes are High

By playing the pros in a ‘smaller’ event like the Poker Player’s Championship, Shakerchi gets to see some of his future One Drop opponents. One thing Sakerchi’s noticed is that some pros get rattled when the stakes are high.

“Some of the pros aren’t necessarily playing their normal game in some situations,” Shakerchi said.

“Big pots, all-ins, the ranges for the poker pros can narrow somewhat whereas the business people have the same range they always play

“I’ve never been backed, but if I was I can imagine that you wouldn’t want to go out in a stupid hand.

"I’d be very embarrassed to go out on a stupid bluff which maybe constrains what these guys can do because their backers have put big amounts of money into them.”

This 'billionaire’s edge,’ along with the prestige of the event, Shakerchi says, is what attracts businessmen to the One Drop.

“The money, the size of the buy-in gives it a kind of character, a certain kind of draw and you know you’re playing against very good players, which is also great.

"No one is going to be sitting there unless they’re either extremely rich or a decent player. And that’s great if you want to play against good players.

"It’s one of the few places where you can do that. It’s a fun and interesting event for businessmen, but no businessmen who can’t play reasonably well are in that game.”

Poker Players Don’t Have a CV That’s Gonna Help Them Get a Job

While lots of skill sets are the same, Shakerchi says any businessman looking to play the One Drop needs a decent amount of poker experience. The same goes for any poker player looking to make it big in the finance industry.

Shakerchi believes Daniel Negreanu would make a good arbitrage manager but most players lack the specific kinds of knowledge and experience required to work for a billion-dollar hedge fund.

“In principle I’d hire poker players but most of the jobs I’d employ for I need people with an accumulated skill set,” Shakerchi said.

Talal Shakerchi
“In principle I’d hire poker players."

“That means a lot of knowledge and maybe working in the securities industry for 5-10 years to build up that knowledge.”

Shakerchi said hedge-fund-aspiring-players would have to start in entry-level roles, like secretaries, but he can’t see a lot of them being comfortable in that position..

“One, you’ve got to get up in the morning. Two is you gotta be disciplined with time.

"In poker you have the great luxury where they don’t have to be in a certain place at a certain time whereas most jobs you do,” Shakerchi said. “If you’re not, you’re out of a job. For some people there’s a bit of adapting to do there.

“I think the other thing is that [poker players] don’t really have a CV that’s gonna help them get into a job.

“Lets say you’re 30 and all you’ve done is that you’ve gone to college, you played a bit of poker in college and maybe not got the best grades because you played too much poker.

"Then you had a professional poker career for 10 years now you’re 30 years old and you want a job.

“It’s not a CV that’s going to get you into necessarily the best jobs that you’d want to get into. You then have to start at the bottom again like a 21-year-old who’s starting a career.

“That’s one of the prices you’re going to pay if you want to be a professional poker player.”

Follow along with Shakerchi's progress - and ask us to report on anything you like - in the $1m Big One for One Drop starting next Sunday.

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