Back in the late 2000’s, long before solvers were a thing, a group of math-focused individuals changed the face of poker. Players like Matt Hawrilenko, Bill Chen, and Jerrod Ankenman introduced a more math-based approach to poker; in fact, Chen and Ankenman even wrote a book titled The Mathematics of Poker.
Between 2006-09, the triumvirate won five World Series of Poker (WSOP) bracelets between them and seemingly set the wheels in motion for the game to evolve into today’s “solver era.” Like many others before them, all three moved away from the game over the next decade, with Hawrilenko temporarily coming out of “retirement” back in the 2015 WSOP.
Similarly, Ankenman made a rare appearance at the Rio when he was spotted in Event #44: $3,000 6-Handed Limit Hold’em. The 2009 WSOP Event #42: $2,500 8-Game Mix bracelet winner has an impressive limit hold’em résumé that includes a pair of runner-up finishes in WSOP event. Back in 2006, he took second to Ian Johns in Event #23: $3,000 Limit Hold’em for $150,586 and two years later finished runner-up to Rob Hollink in Event #30: $10,000 Limit Hold’em Championship.
Where Has He Been?
“I was a pro until 2012 or so. At that point I went to work for Susquehanna, it’s like a financial firm,” Ankenman told PokerNews. “I did some options trading, but now I work for their sports-betting group. I’m like their US sports research head. I’ve been doing that for several years.”
He continued: “I basically don’t play poker anymore. I was in Vegas to visit some friends and do some stuff. I was here so thought why not play. I can still play poker, so why not show up and play this thing. Being a poker tourist now, it’s been nine years since my last World Series tournament, and the first hand I get dealt I get a multi-way pot with quads!”
Ankenman brought a decent stack into Day 2 of the tournament but found himself stuck in reverse after making top pair or better on numerous occasions but still losing. With no luck to be had, Ankenmann found himself on the rail before the first break of the day.
“It was fun. I find now the reasons I stopped playing poker for a living are still good reasons,” he said. “I’m happy to show up, play the tournament, and have fun. I was thinking there might be some big burst of nostalgia, you know I used to play 20-25 tournaments a year, but really, I had fun but I have no desire to come back to it [full time].
A New Adventure
While Ankenman was a poker pro for nearly a decade, he eventually headed out to greener pastures.
“I had done it for nine years or so, and I just wanted to work on some different things. Poker was getting a lot harder. I think we were involved in making it that way. I was kind of tired of it, it started to become a real grind. I knew I didn’t want to do it for the rest of my life. I had an opportunity to go to grad school and do my Ph.D. at Yale. When you have other opportunities, sometimes you want to try other things.”
He added: “I’ve settled in with this firm, which was founded by poker players. Gambling is kind of at the heart of what we do. I have a really good role there. I have this math Ph.D. but I have the gambling aspect too. It’s a lot of fun. I’m obviously not the first person to go from poker to finance and sports betting.”
Ankenman’s current position seems to be a perfect blend of all his passions. In fact, when people ask him what he does for a living, he responds: “I bet on sports, bet on elections, and play poker, plus some finance money. It’s pretty much living the dream for a lot of people I think.”
While the former WSOP bracelet winner may not play the game as much as he once did, poker still remains a big part of his life.
“We use poker in our education process in our firm, plus I wrote a poker book, so it’s not like I’ve been cold, zero poker for nine years,” he said with a smile. “I’ve actually talked and thought a lot more about poker than I’ve actually played.”
For more on Ankenman, follow him on Twitter @hgfalling.