Poker's Richest Amateurs3 years ago
The world’s richest poker professionals generally live an exciting, jet-setting lifestyle compared to us mere mortals. But there is a select group of players who would make even the wealthiest pro envious: poker’s richest amateurs!
Whereas massive $300K buy-ins - such as last week’s Super High Roller Bowl - usually see the best players selling huge chunks of their action in an effort to lessen that poker beast known as variance, there are those who sit down at the table and probably wouldn’t even notice if ten times that amount was picked from their deep, deep pockets.
Let’s take a look at five of the richest poker playing amateurs in the world… Be warned, these guys aren’t all huge whales to be mocked for a lack of poker talent… many of them can now mix it with the very best.
Before we start, I just want to point out that once you start talking about people being worth hundreds of million, if not billions, it doesn’t make much sense to list them in ‘financial order’ – they’re all super-mega-wealthy! - so I’m going to list them in order of poker skills instead, starting with…
- Net worth: $100m+
- Business: Hedge Fund Manager
- Tournament earnings: $2,600,277
- Best Live cash: $656,599
This choice of number 1 is going to surprise a lot of people given that Shakerchi isn’t the biggest earner among the amateur big boys, either in poker or business. However, his poker skills have improved so much that he is now considered to be a genuine pro-level player – and he has proved it both live and online!
As CEO & director of the hedge fund, Meditor Capital Management, Shakerchi was responsible for over $3billion in client investments and used his acute strategic acumen to hit consistently positive returns for almost two decades.
You’re going to be reading the phrase ‘Hedge Fund manager’ quite a lot in this article, so let’s look at fellow PokerTube writer Ivan Potocki’s description:
Assets managers responsible for creating investment portfolios to guard against losses…basically, it is Talal’s job to earn the best return possible for his investors, but it is different from the traditional fund management because it is much less exposed to movements of the stock market.”
When he closed down the European arm in 2013, he stated:
I am grateful to have worked for so long with such a dedicated and focused group of individuals, all far removed from the popular media depiction of those engaged in our industry.”
His decision, though a business one, allowed him to focus more on his philanthropic work which, by 2013, had earned him 4th spot on the Sunday Times Giving List, and on his poker.
By 2013, Shakerchi was already known in the poker world, a brief foray in 2008 picking him up almost $¼ million in the grand Prix de Paris and a breakthrough in 2012 at the Monte Carlo 6-max Turbo High Roller landing him another $294,417 at the EPT Grand Final.
The poker money, of course, is pretty irrelevant to Shakerchi who apparently lost €1million at an unofficial cash game during the final of the European Poker Tour in Monaco in 2013. With seats going for €500,000 he busted his first buy-in quite quickly before spewing another half million. Despite the massive loss, he was heard to say as he left: "Goodbye, see you guys tomorrow," to the remaining two players!
His biggest live cash came a year later, in his home city London, when he won the £10K High Roller for a whopping £436,330 ($656,599). But live cashes have never been Shakerchi's strongest spot, from the beginning of his poker ‘hobby,’ he was attacking the online game under the screen-name ‘raidalot’, and having considerable success.
This culminated in last month’s SCOOP Main Event title, his 3rd overall, where Shakerchi had to fight off some of the world’s top players in the $10K buy-in event. With the likes of Scott Seiver and John Juanda also making the final table of the SCOOP biggie –which saw 824 entries, doubling the $4million guaranteed prize fund– Talal had a considerable fight on his hands, but he eventually scooped $1,468,001.
In all, he cashed 36 times, including making five final tables, proving that he is indeed one of the best players out there, despite continuing his day job to pay the bills!
I don’t feel uncomfortable at all playing against any player in the world,” he told CalvinAyre back in the Autumn of 2014. “There are players who I would see myself as a dog – heads-up, especially the heads-up specialists – but if you are talking about a 8-handed tournament, I will happily play against anyone. I actually enjoy it more when the players are better.”
Speaking of the high-rollers which he regularly plays, Shakerchi stated:
It’s possible that I am below average in the field, but I don’t feel outclassed. There are times I see things that are blatantly bad even in High Rollers. You wouldn’t expect it, but it does happen.”
Unlike some of the players in this list, Talal Shakerchi doesn’t frequent the gossip columns or the prop-betting pages of gambling sites, instead preferring to invest his time in philanthropic causes.
Shakerchi said of his interest in charitable causes:
…philanthropists all have different approaches. Mainly this head v heart dilemma. You have some people who lead by the heart and they want to help every single problem. I’m the guy at the other end of the scale saying, ‘hang on you need to think about this, if that money was spent elsewhere could we be doing more good?”
As with his poker and business interests, Shakerchi explains:
I have taken a very logical, methodical, systematic approach to it… We are in an age where you have extremes of wealth. You have a few people – usually through finance or technological businesses – who have become extremely wealthy versus the average...we can have arguments over whether it’s a good system or not – but let’s say it’s the system, then those who benefit the most do have a responsibility to give more to those who suffer in that system.”
- Net worth: $50milllion+
- Business: Commodities Trader
- Tournament earnings: $8,587,764
- Best Live cash: $1,178,980
Shak really ought to be in number 1 spot given his massive poker earnings, and he would be except for two reasons: he has effectively been a semi-pro player for a decade now, and was also married to a poker pro at one point! This gives him a head-start obviously, and some might have excluded him entirely from such a list because of it.
As a commodities trader at the turn of the millennium he made his fortune, eventually setting up his own hedge fund company, SHK Asset Management to trade in gold futures.
He explained that:
The skill set you need to succeed in corporate life and the financial world is the same skill set you need to succeed at the poker table,” adding that his main skills lay in focusing on areas he knew well. "I am one of the very few people willing to sit down and make a market in any spread transaction. It's a niche market, but it's my niche."
When he offloaded his gold futures in 2011 – causing a minor panic in the market – he said:
Never try to pick the price of gold. History shows it takes a year to go up, and three days to go down."
Poker-wise, Shak has had a decade of success, his first big score coming in the 2007 $5K Ante-Up for Africa charity event at the WSOP which brought him almost $250,000. It was the Aussie Millions in 2010 which really proved to the poker world that Shak was a top-class player though, rather than just a rich man trying his luck.
The $100K challenge may have had only 24 entries, but Shak fought off the great Phil Ivey himself at heads-up to claim the $1million top prize. "We're going heads-up and I am fine with you being first and me being second," said a star-struck Shak before play commenced! He also narrowly missed out on a bracelet, finishing 2nd in the PLO hi/lo8 event in a final table which included Erik Seidel and Dave ‘Devilfish’ Ulliott.
A well-travelled man with his semi-pro poker status, Shak’s biggest cash-out was his 2nd place finish at the 2014 PCA in the Bahamas, another $1million+ scoop which cemented his place in the top echelons of poker’s best players.
A well-documented divorce and run-ins with financial authorities litter Shak’s off-table biography, but one bizarre story sticks in the kind. Three years after his divorce settlement with Beth Shak, Dan filed a civil suit seeking 35% of the $million+ shoe collection his wife had racked up during their marriage!
Dan claimed she had kept the shoes hidden in a secret room in their Fifth Avenue apartment, meaning he was unaware of their value when he agreed to a $3.25 million (£2m) divorce settlement.
700 pairs of Louboutin shoes were included in the suit, but Dan Shak eventually withdrew his action after Beth had given evidence that:
There was such a lack of emotion and love in my relationship that I filled that void with shopping. I was shopping endlessly, I couldn't stop."
The former model-turned philanthropist Beth Shak added:
I wanted love and emotional support and affection, but there was nothing. He would say, “Stop! Get away from me!” I tried to keep track of what I was buying, but I lost control.”
“Well, thanks very much for wasting everybody’s time,” was the judge’s sarcastic comment to Dan when he withdrew his claim.
So, a hard-earned 2nd spot for the multi-millionaire businessman-cum-poker pro!
- Net worth: $400million+
- Business: Energy Trader
- Tournament earnings: $2,507,051
- Best Live cash: $1,965,163
Probably the best-known of poker’s rich-list amateurs, Perkins brings an undisguised enthusiasm and yearning to learn every time he hits the tables.
As you have probably worked out by now, Bill Perkins is a man of considerable wealth, able to indulge his fantasies and whims in poker, gambling, and a wider field of interests. Specific numbers are hard to come by naturally, but given his background, we are talking about multi-multi-millionaire status – his one-time boss at Centaurus, John Arnold, hit $4billion net worth at the age of 36, so 10% of that for his lead trader Perkins is probably a conservative estimate.
Perkins began his trading career as a clerk on the floor of the New York Mercantile Exchange and was then recruited by El Paso Energy in Houston, running a natural gas options desk, later trading energy derivatives for AIG and Statoil.
According to Reuters:
Perkins joined Centaurus when Arnold founded the fund in 2002, using his final bonus from Enron as start-up capital. It did remarkably well, making Arnold a billionaire and showering fortunes on its traders.”
Perkins sees the difference between poker and trading is that “the universe is a little bit wider” in business, adding that, “It takes a lot more study and a little bit more homework,” to win big in the trading arena.
In poker you need patience in tournaments waiting for hands,” he once told the PokerStars blog, “and you need the same patience when evaluating your decisions (in investments) unless you’re dealing in commodities because they’re always moving. You have to make a lot of decisions with limited information so it behoves you to get as much information and have what we call fundamental analysis of the market. I guess that would be the same analysis of understanding your customer or understanding the player against you.”
When it comes to his actual poker-playing skills, Perkins is surprisingly good for someone who seems to spend as much time living it up as he does focusing on the card-playing aspect of his life. This wasn’t always the case, as Perkins was known for his ultra-aggressive, all-in, gambling approach to the game when he first appeared on the scene.
When I started," he explained to Cigaraficionado.com, "I looked at poker as a version of craps. If I had 6, 4 and somebody had Ace, 2, I would gamble. I wanted to ship in my money and hope to get lucky. I'd look at my cards, not be really sure of what to do, and...All in!" Then he would see the cards of his opponent, maybe a kid half his age who snap-called the bet, and say, "Oh, you have me covered? Well, I am only a 30 percent underdog."
But that only works for a little while," explained Perkins, who is nothing if not intelligent and adaptable. "At some point, you get labeled as the guy who shoves it in all the time. The pros are good at sniffing that out. Eventually I got a little more studious and serious and goal oriented. Then I realized that I don't need to get lucky all the time."
Now, although still to be found at the high-stakes cash tables, Perkins has also made his mark in tournament play. He placed in the 2013 WSOP One Drop High Roller with a buy-in of $111,111 at
3rd for a staggering $1,965,163 and he added a 4th spot and an almost $1/2 million payday the same year in the £50K buy-in Super High Roller during EPT10 in London.
Unlike some of the ‘whales’ among the mega-wealthy poker wannabes – Guy Laliberte, founder of Cirque du Soleil springs to mind immediately – Perkins has a game worthy of mixing it with class players.
His WSOP 3rd spot was ahead of the likes of Esfandiari, Phil Laak, Shaun Deeb and Martin Jacobson. In London, only the German trio of Martin Finger, Tobias Reinkemeier, and Christoph Vogelsang got the better of him, with the likes of Patrik Antonius finishing 8th.
His high-stakes cash games also included an appearance on the televised High Stakes Poker, although Perkins was under par for most of his showing. However, a $175,000 pot near the end, in which his KQ outgunned Jason Mercier’s K10 on an AKK flop, brought him out of the red and he walked away a happy man.
His stints on PokerStars ‘Big Game’ back in 2010 and 2011 also afforded him the opportunity to test himself against the world’s best players, with Hellmuth, Laak and Bertrand ‘ElKy’ Grospelier among the opposition.
When asked once about any political ambitions he may have, Perkins replied: "No. You know, when they do my background check they're not going to like it!” So, you’re not going to read about the regular personal life of most poker pros here!
Although he is married with three children and actively takes part in many charitable organisations, Perkins has found fame in a different personal field – that of prop-betting.
Barely a month or tournament goes by without the fun-loving multi-millionaire staking his limitless funds against someone doing something outrageous.
With the self-styled ‘Instagram King’ Dan Bilzerian being one of Perkins’ best friends, the two recently sharing a prop bet of ridiculous proportions which saw Bilzerian cycle from his home in LA to the sign heralding Las Vegas. The 300-mile ride had to be completed in under 48 hours and $600,000 was at stake – as well as Bilzerian’s private jet when fellow high-stakes poker pro/prop bettor Rick Salomon got in on the action.
Perkins’ prop bet shenanigans are legendary in the poker world, and Antonio ‘the Magician’ Esfandiari is often the bait which Perkins lures into his wild schemes. Recently Esfandiari was kicked out of the Main Event at the PCA in the Bahamas as a result of a Perkins prop bet.
His ‘lunging’ for 48 hours to win the reported $50,000 bet against Perkins had left him in so much pain that going to the bathroom to relieve his bladder was too much to contemplate, so he used a bottle under the table instead! Needless to say the PCA organizers were less than amused by this ‘party trick’ and Esfandiari was out on his ear in embarrassing fashion.
Not one to shy away from a challenge, Esfandiari was also involved in a ‘no sex for a year’ challenge from the financial expert-turned-playboy/philanthropist/part-time poker pro.
“Big bet again..... Antonio Esfandiari no sex no release of any kind for one year...can he make it?” tweeted Perkins at the time. The ‘multi-millionaire hedge fund manager and recreational high-stakes poker player’ won this particular bet when Esfandiari bought himself out of the bet barely two weeks into it! Hardly surprising as ‘self-release’ was also banned for the duration!
Bill Perkins has also accepted some very interesting prop bets from poker pro Jeff Gross, involving abstaining from alcohol, not eating flour for a year, jumping from the stratosphere and getting a back tattoo, a bet worth half a million dollars.
So, a very different ‘dude’ from the family man who once stated:
I want to have an impact on the planet and hopefully make it better in ways that I would be effective!”
- Net worth: $320,000,000
- Business: Debt consolidation
- Tournament earnings: $1,418,667
- Best Live cash: $3,244,084
It’s rare that an amateur player, regardless of their wealth, can simply go from poker newbie to high-roller success in a couple of years, but that’s exactly what Englishman Paul Newey has done – mixing it with the biggest and best across the world since the poker bug took hold.
Newey founded the company Ocean Finance in 1991 with just £2500 and within a decade it was valued at $14billion, having prospered on the back of rising house prices and the credit boom.
Ocean Finance was one of a number of finance companies which used aggressive daytime television advertising, offering customers the chance to slash their debt repayments by bundling existing loans up into a single product – but criticised by many for not making customers fully aware of the risks.
As with any good poker player, you have to know when to hold them and when to fold them, and in 2006 Newey sold his business for over $300m, and although he stayed on a further three years as Chief Executive, he managed to ride out the 2008 credit crash.
The 47-year old Birmingham man went on to set up London-based New Wave Ventures, which invests in businesses with growth potential. Investments include Aeristech, a Kenilworth-based engine turbo-charger company, and Cambridge Scientific Innovations, a food and pharmaceutical product testing company.
He was named 17th richest person in the UK last year, so he certainly has the spare change to play even the highest poker buy-ins!
And that highest poker buy-in just happened to be Newey’s debut event, the $1 Million Big One for One Drop at the 2012 WSOP!
It was my first proper tournament,” explained Newey when interviewed by PokerTube at the time. “It was a little bit silly to invest $1 million, but I wanted to be a piece of history. There was a charity element as well.”
Making money in business and making money playing poker/gambling are two different things, but Newey has been luckier than most, and works hard on the skill aspect as well.
At one point he famously came close to breaking the bank at Star City Casino in Birmingham, staking £300,000 on each spin of the roulette wheel and winning £3 million, the combination of this plus “bad debts and appalling December racing and football results" forcing owner Stanley Leisure to issue a profit warning which wiped 12 per cent off its share value.
“I've only been playing poker for two and a half years so I need more experience,” he explained back in 2013, claiming that playing against the best players in the world is the fastest route to gaining the experience.
“I think I'm improving and it's going to take some time, but I think the money I've invested so far has been well spent,” he added, and his results since have confirmed his talent and hard work.
The 2014 Big One for One Drop at the WSOP saw his biggest payday, although the $1,418,667 he won for 7th spot has to be offset against the $1million buy-in. Nevertheless, sharing a final table with the likes of Daniel Negreanu, Scott Seiver, Tobias Reinkemeier and eventual winner Dan Colman validated his plan and his progress.
The €50K Super High Roller in Prague also boosted his confidence and bankroll, with a 2nd place spot and almost $650,000, finishing ahead of the best of the European high rollers.
Last year was a bit of a hard grind for the Englishman, but 2016 has been kinder, with good showings at the PCA in the Bahammas, followed by the EPT Grand Final €100K Super High Roller which saw him net almost €1/2 million for 5th spot.
Although, as is often the case with the super-rich amateurs, Newey isn’t consistently playing with purely professional players, he is certainly heading to the level where he can and will.
As with many of the mega-rich, particularly the in the UK it would seem, details of Paul’s private life are hard to find, and probably for good reason – so I won’t divulge anything either! He does seem to love the international poker crowd, however, often commenting on the feeling he gets when playing events as far apart as Macau, the Bahamas, Europe and Vegas.
His love – or perhaps addiction to – slot machines and various arcade games from the ‘80s is well-documented, his Twitter feed full of photos of his latest acquisitions and to top off the ‘life of Reilly’ Newey leads, he’s just arrived at the WSOP for 45 days and nights of poker. Now that’s what being a mega-wealthy, extremely good poker player is all about!
- Net worth: $500million+
- Business: Software/Venture capitalist
- Tournament earnings: $3,524,992
- Best Live cash: $1,344,420
It’s entirely possible you won’t have heard much about this man, despite his amazing successes in business and then poker. Focusing on the youngsters and the big name pros tends to see 60-year olds left out in the cold when it comes to media reports…so let’s put that to rights here!
Sippl got into the software industry way back in its infancy and has spent over 30 years as a pioneer, an innovator, and an entrepreneur whose products and companies may be known only by name to specialists in his field, but which have found their way into parent companies such as IBM and PeopleSoft.
With s tart-up companies by the handful, and innovative products in fields such as SQL relational databases, service-oriented architecture (SOA), and distributed object computing (nope, me neither!) Roger’s made millions upon millions.
Not that he is retired yet, as even at 61, he invests in and is director of many companies, most of which, of course, pay him a tidy sum for his services. This lets him indulge his greatest passion – poker!
Sippl can’t quite be classed in the same league as Shakerchi or Shak on poker strength, as generally he sticks to the super-high rollers which have a much higher percentage of non-pros in them, effectively making them a bit easier.
However, even doing well in these requires poker skill – and Sippl has proved time and again that he can mix it with the best of the rich. For example, he took down the $50K Aria Super High Roller back in September of 2014, finishing ahead of the likes of Brian Rast to pick up the $776,160 pot.
As with the other rich men of poker’s amateur crew, the chance to play with – and learn from - the world’s best has improved his game dramatically in just a few short years, and last year’s PCA $100K buy-in SHR saw him take down 2nd spot.
The final table was a who’s-who of poker’s finest, with Sippl outlasting Bryn Kenney, Sorel Mizzi, Christoph Vogelsang, Sam Greenwood, Andrew Robl, and Scott Seiver – losing out only to an amazing Ace-high hero call when heads-up against Steve O’Dwyer.
So, Sippl is up there with the very best amateurs and you can expect the 60-year old to keep improving!
Away from the tables, Sippl is a family man, long-time married, and serving on local school boards, including that of his daughter. He still finds time for business and directorships, of course, and is a philanthropist at local level for various causes close to his heart.
As one of the oldest, active, amateur multi-millionaires, he tends to play only in the US or close by, unlike some of the others who jet-set their way around the world plying their very expensive poker hobby.
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