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Scene Last Night: Ackman, Tilson, Susano, Sabat, Mudrick, Saeed

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Reach Poker Tournament
David Eigen, managing director, Integris LLC, and Whitney Tilson, managing director and co-founder, T2 Partners LLC. Photographer: Amanda Gordon/Bloomberg

July 26 (Bloomberg) -- Pershing Square Capital Management LP founder William Ackman won his first hand in the Take ‘Em to School Poker Tournament last night but he didn’t last long.

“I want to lose quickly so I can get home and see my kid,” Ackman said.

Six hours later, Stephen Susano won the tournament and selected his prize: a seat at the 2012 World Series of Poker.

“It’s easy to win when you get the cards,” said Susano, who works in the alternative-investments business.

He was already thinking about his next big night out with his peers in finance: a New York Hedge Fund Roundtable event on Aug. 18.

The tournament at 583 Park Avenue benefited the nonprofit Reach, which offers cash payments to high-school students who excel in AP exams. Participants included: Andrew Frankenberger, a former trader who last month took home a bracelet at the 2011 World Series of Poker, outlasting 2,500 players; Omar Saeed of Eton Park Capital Management LP; and Whitney Tilson, a Reach co-founder, and co-founder and managing director of T2 Partners LLC, who stayed until the end to congratulate the winners.

Massage therapists offered back rubs to the players and waiters brought them drinks and heaping plates of pasta. Many of them took out their credit cards, or in the case of Steve Kuhn, a partner at Pine River Capital Management LP, a wad of $100 bills, to stay in the game. Kuhn won a big hand against Frankenberger, earning him a case of poker chips.

His Own Desk

Michael Sabat, who on Monday begins work at Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. in equity derivatives sales and trading, organized the event, which required a $1,000 buy-in and brought out almost twice as many guests as last year. Reach paid World Poker Tour, which produces the television show, to run the tournament.

“Mike was at our office so much, we gave him his own desk,” said the executive director of Reach, Kathrine Mott.

Hedge-funders who bought tables included John Sabat (Michael Sabat’s older brother), a portfolio manager at SAC Capital Advisors LP; Jason Mudrick, president of Mudrick Capital Management LP, who won the tournament last year; Paul Britton, head of Capstone Investment Advisors; and Jacques Garibaldi, managing partner at London Park Investments LLC.

Nine players went into the final round, one woman among them: Stephanie Sieber, who is engaged to Mudrick. She most recently worked at an eye bank.

Seven winners took home prizes. Craig Martone of Morgan Stanley picked a three-night-stay on St. Martin; Paul Lisiak, who works in private equity, chose the golf package offering two foursomes at private clubs. Gregory Terrinoni, a junior trader at Capstone selected a five-night stay at a private home on Lamu Island, Kenya.

Chris Brumbach, a portfolio manager at Pine River, picked a lunch with Ackman, and Darius Sepassi, an associate at Highstar Capital, is going to lunch with Seth Klarman, founder and president of Baupost Group LLC, a private investment partnership. Ed Vartughian, a trader, placed seventh, and ended up with the chance to drive a 556-HP Cadillac CTS-V at the Monticello Motor Club.

“See you next year,” said Michael Sabat as he stepped out onto Park Avenue.

(Amanda Gordon is a writer and photographer for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. Any opinions expressed are her own.)

To contact the writer on this story: Amanda Gordon in New York at agordon01@bloomberg.net or on Twitter at @amandagordon.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Manuela Hoelterhoff at mhoelterhoff@bloomberg.net.

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