For many, the 2015 World Series of Poker Main Event is all about the money. Not for Thomas Paul. He made plenty of that on Wall Street when he served as chief investment officer for Fortress Investment Group. For Paul, who is now retired and lives in Huntsville, Utah, this tournament is all about the fun.
"I like poker a lot, but I don't play many tournaments," Paul told PokerNews on a recent break. "I play mostly cash pot-limit Omaha. I folded a runner-runner flush early in the tournament, face up, which was something a PLO player can do and something a no-limit player would never do apparently. I got a lot of shit from my friends for that one [laughs]."
PLO may be Paul's favorite game, but it's not the only one he has experience with; in fact, while studying at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) from 1989 to 1993, where he graduated with bachelor's and master's degrees in engineering and computer science, Paul was a part of a MIT blackjack team, though not the one portrayed in the Kevin Spacey movie 21.
While working on Wall Street, Paul utilized mathematical systems to amass his fortune, skills that no doubt serve him well at the WSOP.
“If you create a [trading] model that believed the world is as it was from 2001 to 2007, that model may very well fail in 2009,” Paul said in an interview with Forbes. “People will get smarter about realizing that quantative modeling solutions need oversight and need skepticism. I’m sure this last year and a half has destroyed a lot of model-based trading strategies. The ones that have done well are the ones that can adapt to a rapidly changing world.”
Adaptation is key to making a deep run in the WSOP Main Event, and it's no surprise to see Paul's skills translate to the felt. Paul, who has also worked for Goldman Sachs and Deutsche Bank, has $55,920 in live tournament earnings, which includes a 16th-place finish in the recent Planet Hollywood Phamous Poker Series Main Event for $15,397.
"I've played four events this summer," said Paul. "I cashed in the Goliath over at Planet Hollywood. I had a pretty dominating stack in that, then got it all in kings versus tens and the guy rivered a ten. He ended up placing third."
As for his Day 6 run, Paul said: "It opened up really good, then I got bluffed off of a big hand and got two coolers. I just now folded a seriously good hand that would have cost me all my chips by the end, so I guess I'm feeling lucky to be hanging around. I'm still over average."
Indeed, Paul sits in the top third of the field, and despite the early setbacks, seems to be on the right track. For instance, before the second break of the day, Paul scored an elimination after Christopher Horter raised from middle position and Paul three-bet from the small blind. Horter four-bet jammed for 1.16 million, and Paul snap-called with the , which was ahead of his opponent's . The board ran out a clean , and Horter hit the rail in 57th place for $113,764.
However, Paul wasn't thinking about that hand on the break, nor any others. Instead, he was intent on keeping with tradition – to make the trek to the Rio pool to stretch his legs and breath in some fresh air. It's not superstition so much as essential to maintaining a healthy state of mind.
"I just like it outside," explained the father of two, ages 10 and 13. "I like to get my legs moving, I like the exercise, and I have a friend with a room key so I can get out there. The bathrooms aren't crowded by the pool, so it's nice."
As for the Main Event, Paul isn't feeling any pressure.
"It's not the money, it's the fun," Paul said of his deep run. "I would be so excited to spend the next few months with a real serious reason to play poker. To learn from friends of mine who I know are great and can teach me. Then to bring my family here for November would just be spectacular."