EPT10 London £50k: Who is Bill Perkins, Super High Roller?
Bill Perkins is an interesting character and it's certainly tough to label him. Venture capitalist, clean energy enthusiast, commodities trader, poker player, raconteur, political agitator? Perkins has worn all those hats and more, but perhaps the title of the tournament he's been playing in the last couple of days would be the most accurate for any future business cards: Bill Perkins, Super High Roller.
The EPT10 London £50,000 Super High Roller started yesterday pulling together some of the biggest names of the poker world to play for the kind of money that most of us can only really dream of - £821,000 for the winner in a three-day tournament - which is currently being live-streamed around the world on PokerStars.tv.
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In this game Perkins would be considered one of the underdogs, which really is not as insulting as it sounds. Some number crunching last night showed that the cumulative live tournament winnings of the 37 high rollers that had bought in - four more have since - weighed in at well over $200m. Six of the current top ten Global Poker Index players were in the field and five of the top ten on the all-time money list, players such as Team PokerStars Pro Daniel Negreanu, Erik Seidel, reigning EPT Grand Final champ Steve O'Dwyer and British high stakes pro Sam Trickett, not to mention a raft of German high roller specialists.
To be considered one of the weaker players in a Super High Roller field is hardly a badge of shame. It's also a view that Perkins is doing incredibly well to combat having been chip leader for much of yesterday and still well positioned with 12 players remaining. Eight players get paid. So, poker people, learn your lesson: Perkins is not a man to underestimate (as Viktor Blom found out at the PCA).
Big companies, big score
Perkins talks fast and plays pretty fast, too. This event, as he told the PokerStars Blog yesterday, is not about making money, but that certainly doesn't mean that he's out to burn it either. Perkins finished third in the WSOP One Drop for $1,965,163 and a oh-so-close call to win a bracelet. But, as he said himself, poker is not how he makes his money. He's done that through commodities trading and investing, starting as clerk on the trading floor before moving up to be a trader for companies such as El Paso, Norwegian oil firm Statoil, insurance corporation AIG, and Centaurus Advisors. He's since kicked off his own umbrella companies for trading and venture capital, Skylar Capital Management and Small Ventures USA, which invests in energy, technology, and entertainment companies.
He's a busy, wealthy guy, sure, but also an interesting one. Perkins was kind enough to spare the PokerStars Blog some time to explain some vital basics should you want to dip your toe in the world of investment. When asking players for tips it's usually about how and when you should big pairs, suited connectors or suited aces, but with Perkins it's on entry level investment. You can't miss a 101 lesson from someone as successful as Perkins.
Adapting your game, widening your range
"The difference to poker is that in investment the universe is a little bit wider. It takes a lot more study and a little bit more homework. In poker you need patience in tournaments waiting for hands and you need the same patience when evaluating your decisions (in investment), 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," said Perkins.
Knowledge is power
So it seems there are some comparisons: information is key. The more you know, the more you understand, the more likely you are to put yourself into winning positions where you can maximise situations of positive expectation.
"Get an understanding of what commodities are and then learn the basics. The first step is to understand how that commodity is used and consumed, and to understand the supply and demand of that commodity and what affects its price," said Perkins.
But, much like poker, finding out what you shouldn't do is probably just as important. Mistakes can cost a lot. If you're ever thinking seriously of getting involved then pay attention to these words. You've got to be prepared to move fast.
"In business there's this thing called liquidity and that liquidity can dry up a lot faster than you can anticipate. The market can get hyper-volatile in a short matter of time and it can stay irrational and hyper-irrational for more extended periods. There's a saying that the market can stay irrational for longer than you have wealth. It can outrun you. It's so true. It happens quickly. There's a couple of warning signs. It's like an earthquake. There's a tremor and boom."
Bust and boom
Perkins is well aware of how fast things can move and their repercussions. It's reported that he earned $1.2m trading on Goldman Sachs stock around the time of mass financial bailouts back in 2008, which he was actually vociferously against, so much that he funded an advertising campaign in the New York Times attacking President George W. Bush, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke over the bailout. Funded, we should add, with the very money from the earnings of the stock spike caused by the bailout announcements. Irony aside, it was a stand that Perkins felt he had to take.
"People take all kinds of risks every day and for the government to take taxpayers funds and bail out bondholders under the guise that this helps the common person I felt was specious at best, but regardless of my opinion I didn't feel that conversation was happening. I felt that the other side of the argument wasn't having a proper voice. The media in the United States tends to just parrot White House statements so I didn't think there was enough serious debate as to the consequences of the actions that were going on. Generally, you know, with institutions the best way to get something through is fear of some dire consequences. It's always happening. Sequester was going to cause all these big problems in the United States just recently. I don't see that (as) chaos. That death or that rapid change is sometimes needed to regrow your economy from a different base level."
Maybe that's typical of Perkins and a big reason that he's been so successful. Seeing the world differently and having the confidence to back yourself on it can be a winning combination, even if it does get you labelled as a maverick (see, he does have a lot of labels).
"I guess that people see me as some kind of nut or wildcard. Most of the feedback I got (on the campaign) was very positive. Most of the media wanted to know, "What the hell?" because most people don't shoot that type of money or feel that passion about it. I thought it was great because it served its purpose. It had its discussion and got run over anyway. I don't know if it influenced or scaled back or whatever, but it's on the record and people were against it on the record. We don't get the ability to run ten earths and see what happens. I'm still of the belief that the amount of capita that was spent bailing out the bondholders and those keeping that infrastructure alive you'd have been much better dividing it up amongst the unemployed and letting them start their own businesses. Forest fires happen for a reason, so that the forest can grow healthy. Things happen for a reason in the business cycle and I think that these attempts to selectively choose who should survive to maintain a system is not efficient, it's not effective and at worst it's criminal."
Sticking his oar into national governmental debate is one thing, entering the Washington corridors of power is another entirely. Is this one Super High Roller that we'll ever see running for Congress?
"No. You know, when they do my background check they're not going to like it," said Perkins, laughing.
Nixon allegedly funded some of his early campaigns with his poker winnings, so maybe that's not such a bad thing after all.
"I want to have an impact on the planet and hopefully, quote, unquote, make it better in ways that I would be effective. I don't know if in the political arena I would be the most powerful."
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Whether Perkins makes the final table here or not, a bet on seeing Perkins play more Super High Rollers would be a wise investment. A final table here would just be another in a long line of successes for Perkins, but it would be hard to begrudge him it: there are few that seem to enjoy playing them as much as he.
Rick Dacey is a staff writer for the PokerStars Blog.