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I am in the restaurant of the Palm Beach Casino waiting impatiently for my mushroom and zucchini pasta. Sitting a few tables yonder is Talal Shakerchi, the owner of Meditor Capital, a hedge fund that he started in 1998 that now owns assets worth a reported £3bn.

There is no over-sized watch, no Gucci loafers, no Louis Vuitton bag. I’m even convinced that his spectacles are from the National Health. You would never in a million years imagine that he is worth an estimated £100m, and you certainly wouldn’t have him pegged as a poker player.

Shakerchi is the chip leader as we resume the second, and final day, of the World Poker Tour (WPT) Alpha8 Season II kick starter in London. He has paid £60,000 for the pleasure of competing against some of the very best players in the world; he is playing almost every pot, and he is winning most of them.

He feels completely at ease sitting amongst the likes of Dan Colman, Sam Trickett, and Philipp Gruissem. That’s his level, and he is now used to it. He is the winner of two EPT High Rollers, and also competes with the online wizards, winning a PokerStars Spring Championship of Online Poker (SCOOP) title, and coming very close to adding a PokerStars World Championship of Online Poker (WCOOP) title to his resume with a second and third place finish just a few weeks ago.

I move over to his table and ask if I can interview him.

“Sure,” he says.

“What do you want to talk about?” I ask.

“You tell me. You’re the interviewer,” he replies.

“What’s going on in your life?” I counter.

“Who wants to know about my life?” he laughs.

This self-made multi-millionaire is one of the best stock pickers in today’s financial world, and he doesn’t even realize that he has become one of the most interesting poker players in the community today.

The High Roller ecosystem existed because the sharks of the professional game were lured into the choppy waters to feed on the excess blubber surrounding the financial whales.

This is changing.

Players like Talal Shakerchi, and the American commodities trader, Dan Shak, are biting back – and they are capable of taking chunks. Why do we want to know more about them? Because, although they may believe they are part of the rough and tumble of the financial world, we just recognize them as members of our family.

When you watch Shakerchi play you can see that he is another Dan Shak in the making. Shak has over $7.2m in live tournament earnings, has won the partypoker Premier League – one of the toughest competitions in the world – and also took the AU$100,000 Challenge in the 2010 Aussie Millions.

The gold futures expert carries a GPI world ranking of #60 (he has been as high as #15), he is ranked #33 in the US, and is the all-time top money earner in Pennsylvania’s history.

Not bad for a part-time poker player.

Shak was recently in the news after the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) filed a civil enforcement complaint in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia for allegedly violating a CFTC order that stems from Nov., 2013.

“It’s not worth writing about,” says Shak.

But it is.

You are part of the family, Dan.

If we are going to write 1,000 word articles on your ex-wife’s shoe collection, you can be sure that we are going to cover an alleged CFTC violation – even if we think CFTC is an anagram for a member of the NFL.

It was a de minimis error with no intention to violate the order,” Shak’s lawyer said. “The error occurred because it was a weekend holiday and the practices Daniel Shak has in place failed in this one instance to stop him from trading 14 seconds later than he should have. The amount he traded was two lots, which is extremely insignificant, like trading two shares of IBM stock. When his broker saw that the error had occurred, Mr. Shak, through his broker, disclosed the error to the CFTC.”

It’s believed that the CFTC are trying to throw the book at him.

“We are going to fight the factual contentions in the CFTC’s complaint, namely that Mr. Shak failed to report the error,” his attorney added. “He did knowingly report the error to his broker and through them to the CFTC. I don’t think he should receive any penalty.”

It might seem like insignificant news for Shak, but that’s the way the cookie is going to crumble these days. The financial web news outlets are going to be writing {very badly} about million dollar poker tournaments, and we are going to be doing exactly the same about trading violations {also very badly}. And it’s all because these behemoths of the financial world are transferring their success onto the dirty green baize.

Some millionaire self-help guru -whom I fail to remember – once said that you are the sum total of the five people you most spend your time with. Shakerchi, Shak and co., are certainly rubbing off on poker’s elite.

In this year’s Sunday Times Rich List, Shakerchi was named as one of the Top 20 Philanthropists in the UK. Speaking to him over my mushroom and zucchini pasta, he told me how he has been spending his time learning more and more about philanthropy so he can be sure that his charitable endeavors reap maximum rewards for the people who are fortunate to be the benefactors of his willingness to give.

Just like Shakerchi, philanthropy is dear to Shak’s heart. He is the co-founder of the largest poker tournament for a children’s hospital in the US: The ‘All in’ for Kids Poker Tournament in New York. The next installment will take place at the Mandarin Oriental New York on Wednesday, October 29, 2014, with proceeds benefiting The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP).

CHOP will be hosted by Phil Hellmuth, and will run in conjunction with the World Poker Tour (WPT) Foundation. It has raised over $5m since its inception.

So it’s no accident that Philipp Gruissem, Igor Kurganov, and Liv Boeree created the non-profit organization Raising for Effective Giving (REG). Like I said, you are the sum total of the five people you most spend your time with, and with the likes of Shak and Shakerchi making so many final tables, the values of philanthropy are rubbing off on one side, whilst the ability to play mind games with the best poker players on the planet are rubbing off on the other.

They might think they are both members of the financial community who play poker for a hobby, but for this particular writer, they are a part of the fabric of the poker community who also pick stocks as a hobby.

And what great bastions they are.

Talented, humble, and generous.

Two people who need to remember that the players they compete against not only inspire them, but they also provide inspiration in equal measures.

 

 

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Lee Davy

Life can be viewed as the sum of the parts or the parts themselves. I believe in the holistic view of life, or the sum. When dealing with individual parts you develop whack-a-mole syndrome; each time you clobber one problem with your hammer another one just pops up.

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