Tuesday, August 4, 2009

November 9 Spotlight - Steve Begleiter


The pressure of the main-event final table might get to some people, but one man who will likely be unfazed by that pressure is Steven Begleiter, someone who has experienced the intense thrills of success and the deep pains of failure, and not only at the poker table. Begleiter witnessed firsthand the epic rise and fall of Bear Stearns, the global investment banks and securities trading and brokerage firms.

“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.”

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