“If you look through the old Bears Stearns annual reports, you’ll see my picture in them,” said Begleiter, who worked for the firm for 24 years, the last nine of them as the head of corporate strategy. “And if you read some of the books that come out about the demise of Bear Stearns, you’ll see my name in them.”
Begleiter, the 47-year-old father of three from New York, admits that things didn’t end well at his last job. The giant firm collapsed last year after federal aid couldn’t keep it afloat, eventually being sold to JP Morgan in the midst of a looming economic crisis.
“I was there the day we were sold to JP Morgan last year,” said Begleiter. “I did well there, but obviously it didn’t end well.” Still, Begleiter remains an ardent supporter of his colleagues, saying that he has “nothing bad to say about anybody” and that he “worked with a great group of people.”
Now, at the final table of the biggest poker tournament of the year, he hopes to make them proud. “One of the real legacies we can create for the firm is that of all of us who spread out to do other things, people have really succeeded. Now, I don’t want to make a big deal out of making the final table, I mean, it’s just poker,” said Begleiter, “but I think it’s emblematic of what people from Bear Stearns will be doing in other areas over the next few years.”
Begleiter now works as a principal in a private equity firm, “a dream job” that he has had since last August. He said that his new colleagues had no idea he was going to play in the main event. Begleiter didn’t tell too many people because he thought he’d be in Las Vegas for Fourth of July weekend, and then be back home in time for work.
Fortunately for him, that didn’t happen. “I basically disappeared. I wasn’t going to miss any work if I didn’t make it through day 1,” said Begleiter. “But I started showing up in blogs, and people were like, ‘Doesn’t this guy work with you?’” He says his new company has been “phenomenal and supportive” while cheering him on in the main event.
Begleiter first learned how to play poker from his father as he watched over his shoulder when he was just a boy. He made his WSOP main-event debut last year using $5,000 of his winnings from a local poker league and $5,000 of his own money to participate in the event. Although he didn’t cash in the event, he had a great time.
This year, he won $10,000 from the league and headed back to Vegas for a second try. This year’s attempt went just a little bit better. With nine people left, Begleiter finds himself in fantastic position to contend for the world championship. He is third in chips with just under 30 million.
But more than the money, more than even a chance to be called a world champion, what Begleiter really wants to do is celebrate this accomplishment with his wife Karen and three children, aged between 11 and 16.
“You know, when you’re a teenager, you look at your parents like, ‘Who are these idiots?’ when they’re telling you what to do. I just want to see the look on their faces when it sinks in that their dad actually made the final table,” said Begleiter. “Of course, their dad is an idiot, but at least he made the final table.”
Immediately following the final elimination in July of the Main Event, Shulman ignited controversy by claiming that if he won he might “toss out” the tournament’s celebratory bracelet instead of wearing it. Many in the industry speculated that Shulman’s comments stemmed from the fact that Bluff, not CardPlayer, received media rights to the WSOP. However, Shulman retorted to reporters, “It’s my lack of respect for the WSOP and the management and what they’ve done to all of the players. I don’t like it.”
Shulman’s comments have polarized the attitudes towards the Nevada native among those in the industry. Some have inquired why the CardPlayer Magazine Editor entered the tournament, while others have questioned whether he should return to the Rio in November for the final table of the Main Event. He has since formulated alternatives to trashing the bracelet, including auctioning it off for charity, holding a tournament for players shut out of the 2009 Main Event and awarding the bracelet to its winner, and giving the piece of hardware away on Spade Club, CardPlayer’s subscription-based online poker site.
Shulman’s last final table appearance at a WSOP event prior to the 2009 Main Event came in 2005, when he finished seventh in a $5,000 buy-in Limit Hold’em tournament for $50,000. Shulman finished 12th in the Season III World Poker Tour Championship, taking home $94,000, and owns nearly $400,000 in career earnings on the WPT circuit.
He’s the son of CardPlayer owner Barry Shulman and has become one of the most influential figures in the industry. Shulman’s nonchalant attitude is in stark contrast to the serious nature of most poker players. When asked if this easy-going mantra gives him an advantage over other players in the game, Shulman candidly explained to reporters gathered around him at the WSOP, “I feel like I’m on Adderall and everyone else is on Xanax.”
CardPlayer is one of the world’s premier poker magazines and has over 20,000 subscribers. Besides its American version, Shulman and company produce CardPlayer Europe, which distributes nearly 13,000 copies across 40 countries. CardPlayer features live coverage of top tournaments around the world, including WPT events.
Shulman will enter the November 9 final table 4th in chips with just under 20 million to his credit, and will certainly be a difficult player to send to the rail.