House of Cards


I just finished reading the book House Of Cards: How Wall Street’s Gamblers Broke Capitalism by William D. Cohan. It’s basically the a fairly good back story on how Bear Stearns went under. Even though in another life I actually worked in the brokerage industry as a NASD Series 7 Registered Representative and briefly worked on a small firm’s trading desk I was at a complete loss to understand exactly how these mortgage backed securities created such a massive problem that they nearly brought down the entire financial system. Fortunately, Cohan breaks it all down with step by step events that caused this tidal wave.

I know some people are reading this and saying “Well, what does that have to do with poker?” Well, if you would quit interrupting I’ll tell you.

There are several mentions in the book about the top brass at Bear Stearns killing time playing online poker in his office. While the financial world is melting down the guy standing in the eye of the hurricane is making donk bets. No wonder the games seem to be getting tougher. You think you’re getting a guy to lay down an underpair with a semi-bluff on the flop when this guy is sitting on billions of dollars of toxic assets quickly becoming worthless?

Personally, I think this makes a good case for why the UIGEA was a good idea and why we we need stricter enforcement of gambling laws. If they would have arrested him and the other online poker playing Wall Street execs when they first started playing online poker we might have avoided this entire mess.

On the bright side, he did earn enough Full Tilt Points to get a cool jersey.

Bill Rini
Bill Rini is currently the Head of Online Poker for WSOP. He has been working in the online poker industry since 2004 and has held management roles at Full Tilt Poker and PartyPoker.

6 thoughts on “House of Cards”

  1. Sounds like a very interesting book to read, I had no idea WSE were spending time playing online poker in their spare time.

  2. If I’m remembering correctly (it was a 450 page book) I think both are mentioned as players at different times though Jimmy gets the brunt of it due to the heat he already was taking for his golfing, bridge tournaments, and other distractions.

    Did a quick search for “Jimmy Cayne online poker” and there’s a WSJ article that says about Cayne:

    Friends say that after his Saturday game, he often heads back to his local home for several hours of online poker and bridge and to play with his grandchildren.

    But there’s at least a quote or two in the book from co-workers saying stuff like “he up in his f*cking office playing online poker while we’re done here . . .”

    The same search pulls up an article by Vicky Ward which was quoted in the book:

    Cayne is a man of vast appetites, an online poker addict who I found to be a self-aggrandising tyrant when I met him six years ago. At that time he lied to me baldly about a story I was working on, bragged about his poker and flirted with me, showing off Bears’ sumptuous offices. When later confronted with documents that proved he’d lied, he went berserk and resorted to name-calling.

    The books does a lot of that. It mixes both commentary from people like Cayne and others within the firm with articles, press releases, etc. in such a way that it can get a little confusing who was saying what. But I did remember reading that exact paragraph in the book so I know that was just one of the instances.

Comments are closed.