Poker Strategy

Legendary Hedge Fund Manager Makes You A Better Poker Player

Recently, Jim Simons, the mathematician turned legendary hedge fund manager, passed away at the age of 86. Not only did he make his investors untold millions with an astounding 40% average annual return over the past 3 decades, but he left behind a treasure-trove of wisdom that can be applied to all money management endeavours, be it in the stock market or at the poker table.

With that in mind, here are three Jim Simons quotes that have the power to transform the way you play the game.

“I wasn’t the fastest guy in the world. I wouldn’t have done well in an Olympiad or a math contest. But I like to ponder. And pondering things, just sort of thinking about it and thinking about it, turns out to be a pretty good approach.”

Talk to any successful poker player and you’ll quickly realize that, for them, poker isn’t just a pastime – or even a job. Instead, it is often an all-consuming obsession. Generally speaking, the world’s most successful poker players live and breathe the game no matter whether they’re at the table or not. Between sessions, they’re deeply engaged in analyzing the game’s intricacies. Not the bad beats, nor the amount of money they made or lost, but on uncertain hands and the strategic implications of the plays they observed. They don’t simply dismiss an opponent as just another fish; instead, they are constantly reflecting on whether there is merit to an opponent’s strategy when looked at from an alternate perspective. The world’s best poker players spend the hours away from the table engaging in deeply meaningful “pondering” and, as Simons notes, just sort of thinking about things turns out to be a pretty good approach.

“I want a guy who knows enough math so that he can use those tools effectively but has a curiosity about how things work and enough imagination and tenacity to dope it out.”

Whether you consider yourself primarily a feel or a math type of poker player, the key, according to Simons, is to work your way to a sort of middle ground. Understanding basic pot odds and probabilities is without a doubt crucial for success in today’s ultra competitive poker landscape, but the truly great players understand that poker is a game played between imperfect humans and therefore, at least until the machines take over completely, a combination of math and creativity will continue to win out.

“In this business, it’s easy to confuse luck with brains.”

Although Simons was speaking of investing in equities when dropping this truth-bomb, there is perhaps no truer place for it than in the world of poker playing. One only has to look at the history of televised tournament poker, its graveyard littered with the bodies – and bankrolls – of players who came, conquered, and promptly punted all their riches away (shoutout Jamie Gold). That’s because in a game where variance is always king in the day to day, it is so very easy to mistake a lucky heater – be it in a single tournament or even in a good year – for talent. That’s why, in both investing and poker playing, it is crucial to maintain a sense of humility and a long-term perspective. Success in these fields isn’t about running super hot or scooping a big win, but about consistently refining your strategy and making smart, calculated decisions that pay off over time.

Jim Simons’ approach – relying on humility, a mix of hard skills and creativity, and a solid dose of obsessive thinking – reminds us that whether we’re investing in the stock market or grinding the poker tables, a dedication to growth through self reflection is the foundation of sustained success.

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