||Former hedge fund manager Reid "Chance" Walker at the poker table. He made it to the WSOP's final round in 2011 (Photo: PokerPages.com)|
A new conference aims to formally explore the well known link between hedge funds and poker.
Reid Walker, co-founder of recently shuttered Dallas hedge fund firm Walker Smith Capital Management, is helping launch MacroSports, a conference that will be held July 6 and 7 at the Bellagio hotel and casino in Las Vegas, where panels will address such topics as "Is the world pot committed to quantitative easing?" and "Are sports returns better than hedge fund returns?"
"We saw the convergence of strategies and similar personalities of successful investors, poker players and the sports analytics community," Walker explained via email to Absolute Return. "As a former hedge fund manager, playing high-stakes no-limit hold 'em tournaments was always oddly relaxing and exhilarating. It shares some of the intensity of managing a portfolio, a highly competitive environment with high variance, risk controls, reading people and interesting personalities. For most normal folks the grind of a 12 hour day playing high stakes poker would be an odd way to relax and lose oneself, but for me and a few others, poker is a great way to unwind and have fun."
The event is being held to coincide with the World Series of Poker's signature tournament, the No-Limit Hold'em Main Event at the Rio hotel and casino in Las Vegas, and conference attendees are encouraged to participate in both. The poker tournament requires a $10,000 buy-in. MacroSports is less: for $2,500, attendees will hear from panelists including AQR Capital Management risk manager Aaron Brown, Hayman Capital Management global strategist Richard Howard, former hedge fund quant and master NBA gambler Bob Voulgaris, New York Times statistician Nate Silver, Jefferies & Co. chief market strategist David Zervos and economic author John Mauldin.
Walker, who plays poker under the pseudonym Chance Walker and now runs his own family office, is one of three co-founders of the event. His partners are former professional poker player and Harvard University teaching fellow Brandon Adams and banker Beau Briggs. Adams also helped Michael Lewis write The Big Short about the hedge fund subprime mortgage bet.
Hedge fund managers who have been reported to enjoy poker include David Einhorn of Greenlight Capital, Boaz Weinstein of Saba Capital Management, Cliff Asness of AQR, Jim Simons of Renaissance Technologies, Peter Muller of PDT Partners, Steve Cohen of SAC Capital Advisors and Brian Taylor of Pine River Capital Management.
The hedge fund industry often uses poker games to raise money for charity. Bridgewater Associates' Greg Jensen has donated poker winnings to Sandy Hook Elementary victims, Visium Asset Management's Stefan Lumiere has played to support military veterans looking for jobs in finance, and Pine River's Steve Kuhn has played to raise money for the Robin Hood Foundation.
Hedge fund managers have a history of winning big at events in Las Vegas. Last year, Quantitative Investment Management president Michael Geismar won $710,000 playing blackjack afterhours at the SkyBridge Alternatives Conference.
See also: Walker Smith to shut | Michael Geismar’s $710,000 blackjack breakfast | Bridgewater's Greg Jensen donates poker winnings to Sandy Hook Elementary victims