U.S. fund managers bet on poker while market wagers loom large

NEW YORK, Oct 7 (Reuters) – Hundreds of hedge fund managers and traders gathered in the ballroom of New York’s Gotham Hall on Thursday, fixated on their big bets – on poker, not the markets.

The money managers have gathered for a charity tournament to play a card game that in some circles is taken almost as seriously as their day-to-day work. With a DJ spinning music, attendees spent the evening shoulder-to-shoulder, putting work aside to play.

But others couldn’t help but discuss the turmoil that swept through stocks, bonds and currencies. Boaz Weinstein, founder of hedge fund Saba Capital, didn’t want to predict when the stock market would bottom.

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“Anyone who gives you an answer is not humble because nobody knows this market,” Weinstein said between rounds of the 12th annual Take ‘Em To School tournament. The event raised nearly $2 million for Education Reform Now, a nonprofit dedicated to improving public education. The tournament was organized by brothers Michael Sabat, managing directors of Raymond James, and John Sabat of hedge fund Point72 Cubist Systematic Strategies.

The evening allowed attendees to put aside concerns about the bear market in equities, rising inflation, rising interest rates and the war in Ukraine which are fueling market volatility and creating numerous trading opportunities.

“Markets are so busy now that it’s hard not to talk about it, but it’s a fun competition,” said Sessa Capital hedge fund manager John Petry.

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Hedge funds are down 6.18% this year through September, according to data provider HFR.

The tournament also offered a distraction from the turmoil swirling around lender Credit Suisse (CSGN.S) and separately from Elon Musk’s proposed $44 billion buyout of Twitter Inc (TWTR.N). One player drew parallels between the card table and business. Continue reading

“I don’t know if Musk will buy Twitter,” said one derivatives trader, who asked not to be identified. “I hope so, but I bet he’s a good poker player – you never know what’s really on his mind.”

About 400 attendees were spread across about 30 tables under a massive domed ceiling modeled after the Pantheon of ancient Rome. Wall Street’s Morgan Stanley sponsored a table, as did famed hedge funds Pershing Square Capital Management and Third Point. They ate corn dogs and gyoza for starters, then steak and chicken for starters.

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The champion was crowned after 1am. The winner turned out to be neither a hedge fund manager nor a professional poker player or even a banker. She was Alejandra Cata, a real estate agent and model who entered a competition for only the second time.

“I played aggressively and decisively. I got good cards too,” she said.

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Reporting by Carolina Mandl in New York Editing by Lananh Nguyen and Matthew Lewis

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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