Some investment fund managers say they resent that their profession is compared to gambling in a casino. “It implies that our success is based on pure chance, and that’s just not the case,” is a common retort. But investor Jorge Ufano views the issue from a very different perspective. Ufano claims that luck is actually not much of a determining factor in stock market investment, or, for that matter, in certain card games. And he should know: for years, this expert money manager has pursued both passions: juggling investments, at Spain’s GPM Gestión Activa Alcyon fund (with its 1.4 million euros in assets), and playing in poker tournaments. Ufano argues that both of these competitive endeavors deserve the same respect, and require the same skill, as chess tournaments.
Right now, Ufano is in Las Vegas, Nevada, participating in an event for the World Series of Poker (WSOP). On the first day of the competition, some players had already racked up more than $200,000 in poker chips. Romanian Daniel Negreanu, considered one of the best poker players in the world, is also participating in the competition.
“I’ve always wanted to play in this tournament. I’m totally focused, and I’m going to fight for the bracelet,” Ufano posted on social media. By “the bracelet,” the investor means the trophy awarded by the hosting organization to the winner in each of the annual tournament’s 24 competitive categories. The great poker legend, American Phil Hellmuth, has won 16 bracelets in 34 years, for a total of $6 million in prize money.
Speaking to EL PAÍS from Las Vegas, Ufano explained that “poker and stock market investment are two activities that share a lot in common, because at the end of the day, it’s all about observing data and movements, analyzing patterns, and trying to take advantage of inefficiencies at any given moment, whether in other players, or in the stock market, which is the sum activity of thousands of different economic actors.”
Ufano is no amateur. In May, he participated in, and won, one of the most important competitions of the European Poker Tour, in Monte Carlo, taking home 16,000 euros (about 17,000 dollars) in winnings. It was his first major international triumph, but a decade ago, he had already managed to pocket 10,000 euros (10,700 dollars) at a poker competition in Spain. Ufano says that the key to balancing his participation in these tournaments with the management of a major investment fund is systematization. His approach to investment is based on buying shares in companies that have had a good track record on the stock market (that have momentum, in investment jargon).
Another strategy involves developing portfolios with the help of algorithms, which on the one hand, are used to select which months of the year are best for buying which assets, and on the other hand, can take advantage of moments of maximum volatility in the markets, using financial derivatives.
Jorge Ufano took the reins of the GPM Alcyon fund in 2017, and the first few years witnessed astronomic growth. In 2018, when more than 99% of Spanish mutual funds closed with a loss, Ufano managed to bring in a return of 3.4%. Last year, again, almost all funds registered in Spain closed in the red, but GPM Gestión Activa Alcyon managed to dodge losses.
Recent months have proven more difficult. Since May 2022, the fund has recorded losses of 11.9%. And over the course of the whole year, that figure was a solid 6%. Assets under management have gone from totaling more than €4 million to just €1.4 million.
Nevertheless, Ufano knows that in stock markets, as in poker, there are good times and bad times. And, he says, the important thing is to have a robust performance system. “When you have experience, you know that you’re going to play a lot of hands, and that you’re going to make a lot of trades, and that the important thing is that, on average, you have more positive trades than negative ones. That’s how you make money in both worlds, not by making big trades,” he says.
For now, Ufano’s main income is his work with the securities company GPM Broker, but he is increasingly interested in professionalizing his love of poker. He recently explained that the Spanish Tax Agency categorizes poker players as sportsmen. “But they still don’t allow poker to constitute a profession, when it comes to filing taxes,” he says.
Only time will tell, but Ufano is clear about one thing: he will always have one eye on Wall Street and one eye on a deck of cards.
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