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Ten Minutes With Greg Jensen

A poker-playing hedge fund manager

Greg Jensen

Greg Jensen is CEO and co-CIO of Bridgewater Associates, a $130-billion investment fund, based in Westport. In January, the amateur poker player entered a PokerStars Super High Roller tournament, with 59 entries, a $5.7-million pool, and some of the top pro players in the world. Jensen made the final table, finishing sixth and earning $286,200, which he summarily donated to a group supporting families in Newtown. He lives in Ridgefield with wife Valerie and their children. 

Were you nervous?  I wouldn’t say nervous. Winning and surviving in a poker tournament, like most things, requires a mix of appropriate aggression and fear. You need to be aggressive enough to crush your opponent and wary enough to avoid being crushed.

You were pretty, well, poker-faced, while the others were pretty chatty. Was that your strategy?  The other guys at the table play more poker in a couple of weeks than I have played in this decade.  So they are comfortable in most circumstances. I needed more focus to have a feel for what was going on. They also gain info by knowing how to talk to people during the hand, and I was better off staying away from that.

What is it about these pros that make them better than your Ridgefield poker friends?  The pros drink water instead of beer, and they have an incredible ability to concentrate and consider multiple possibilities naturally. 

How well can you read what cards others likely have?  It depends who I am reading. Most of card reading is about understanding betting patterns and being able to probabilistically determine what the range of cards they might have is. I am decent at that, but some of the pros are almost magical at it.

Where is there more pressure—managing an investment fund or sitting at a final poker table?  Poker is great fun and teaches a lot of valuable life lessons, but it is nowhere near as broad an experience as trying to make sense of the world and systemize that understanding as I do at Bridgewater. At Bridgewater, there are many more people helping me see my mistakes before I make them. I could have used that at the poker table.

Do you have lucky socks or anything that you wear to something like this?  I can’t give all of my secrets away.  

Did you develop any poker groupies?  Val beat all the groupies off of me with a stick. I had to do the same for her as she finished third in the women’s tournament later in the week

Lots of high-fives from colleagues back at work?  Everyone was very intrigued, and naturally I got a fair dose of feedback on my mistakes.

Why did you decide to give it all to Newtown?  Like all parents, Val and I were devastated by the shooting and pictured what it would be like if those were our kids. Val started brainstorming on what would be an appropriate and beautiful gesture of support to Newtown, and she has a great gift planned.