Poker Prowess Offers and Edge in Investing

A new study suggests that hedge fund managers that are good at poker may have an edge when it comes to investment decision-making, according to an article in Bloomberg.

“On one hand, there’s skill overlap,” the article argues, adding, “Both activities demand aggressiveness, accurate calculations under pressure, keen behavioral insight and shrewd risk-taking. On the other hand, poker seems like a risk-seeking activity, suggesting reckless and overconfidence managers.”

The article outlines the findings of a new academic paper on the subject–that hedge fund managers who have won poker tournaments “have more alpha, representing an additional 4.2 percentage points in returns per year versus 2.8 percentage points for other managers.” Although this correlation by itself would not be meaningful, the article points out, the paper’s authors “go on to control exhaustively for possible confounding factors and to eliminate alternative explanations.”

Noting that there are inherent “data problems” related to tracking poker performance, how many tournaments are entered (the study could only track public tournament results), even matching the names of managers, the article says, “the fact that they find such strong results even with these problems is impressive.”

The important takeaway, the article concludes, is that “we need more systematic research on behavioral characteristics and skills of top decision makers.”