Poker High Rollers: Separating the Whales from the Sharks

TAGs: Antonio Esfandiari, big one for one drop, Cirque du Soleil, Interviews, Lee Davy, Poker High Rollers, sharks, talal shakerchi, Whales

Lee Davy sits down with the former European Poker Tour (EPT) London High Roller winner, Talal Shakerchi, to see if he can figure out what the difference is between a whale and a shark.

Poker High Rollers: Separating the Whales from the SharksWhat’s the difference between a whale and a shark?

One’s a fish and the other one isn’t.

But do you know which one is which?

I have often wondered how wide the margins are when the professional poker players take on the businessmen. There is the presence of skill, there is the presence of luck, but there is also the presence of money.

So at what point does money start to become a leveler?


I don’t think so.






Now your talking…but I still don’t think so.

$1 Million?

When the World Series of Poker (WSOP) and Guy Laliberte merged minds to create the $1 Million buy-in event: The BIG ONE for ONE DROP, they created the money leveler.

Now what’s the difference between a shark and a whale?

Not that much.

“The ONE DROP was very interesting,” said Talal Shakerchi as he takes a bite out of his tandoori-tinged Broccoli. “I had played with most of those players before, but I would say, for many of them, their game was a little bit different in the ONE DROP, especially as their stacks got shorter.”

My mind raced back to the beginning of my card learning cycle and the balls-kicking feeling that you got every time you did your bollocks playing three-card brag against the man who had the most money.

It’s all just a question of scale.

“The buy-in was big enough to impact a lot of those players. Very rich businessmen had the advantage that the buy-in was more affordable to them. You have to remember that many of the businessmen in these games have very sound fundamentals and they have earned their money by being very good at what they do. There were no fools playing in that game.”

Maybe it’s not like three-card brag after all.

I remember the build up to the most eagerly anticipated poker game in my poker lifetime.

The social media was awash with the view of the pro poker player that if they could just get a hold of a million bucks there was value to be had in this game.


Poker’s one word definition for a shit poker player.

It seems my memories of those days were not too dissimilar to Talal’s.

“People were writing about it at the time like there was soft money to be had. It’s nothing like that. There are a few Chinese businessmen who know what they are doing, and some other businessmen who play a lot of poker and are reasonable players.

“Guy {Laliberte} is very underestimated. There is this perception amongst the poker community that he is some sort of ‘donator’, but he is a decent player who knows how to apply the right sort of pressure. He has played long enough against good enough opponent’s to make him a very difficult player to play against.”

There aren’t too many fools who have earned millions of dollars through business. These are very smart men, and they choose to play at that end of the spectrum, not just because they have that sort of money, but also because they relish the challenge of playing poker against the very best in the game.

If you are smart, and you spend enough time playing poker against exceptional players, then eventually you are going to pick some of those skills, as sure as dog shit is going to stick in your tread when you accidentally walk into it.

“I wouldn’t always say that it’s just the businessmen who are weaker. There are also some pros who are not that great.” Says Talal. “In some cases I would rather play against some of the pros than the businessmen. It’s not as cut and dried as people think. It’s without question that some of the best businessmen are better players than the weaker pros.”

So what did Talal think about the razzmatazz that accompanied the 2012 BIG ONE for ONE DROP?

“It was good fun, but when I turn up to play poker I just want to play poker. I get frustrated when I turn up on time and the game doesn’t start on time.”

I guess it’s difficult to start a game of poker with a half naked Cirque Du Soleil acrobat doing strange things with your button.

Talal Shakerchi finished 18th in that inaugural event, and as he chomps his way through a garlic nan bread, he doesn’t want to give me an insight as to whether he will be returning for more of the same this summer.

But I’m curious.

What would he have done had he won the $18.3m and not Antonio Esfandiari?

Talal picks up the napkin from his lap and wipes away any remnants of food from his well educated lips before saying…

“I would have probably given it away to charity.”

Ah…so that’s the difference between a whale and a shark.


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