Mike Baxter: Business World Benchmark
Save for a few appearances by Jerry Buss and Guy Lalibrete, Mike Baxter was one of the first from the business world to regularly compete in televised cash games. (Photo: PokerPhotoArchive.com)

Mike Baxter: Business World Benchmark

Hedge fund manager was one of the first to regularly compete in televised high stakes cash games

Posted October 10, 2017 by Will O’Connor
Save for a few appearances by Jerry Buss and Guy Lalibrete, Mike Baxter was one of the first from the business world to regularly compete in televised cash games. (Photo: PokerPhotoArchive.com)

Since Poker After Dark’s late summer reboot, most new lineups have included a mixture of poker professionals and players from the business world with tons of high stakes experience. “High Stakes Hybrid” week’s lineup will continue that mixed trend, but when Mike Baxter made his televised poker debut nearly a decade ago, he was one of the first to go toe-to-toe with the pros at the highest stakes.

Baxter played against the likes of Tom Dwan and Phil Hellmuth during Season 4 of Poker After Dark and competed on three seasons of High Stakes Poker. Though both shows regularly featured businessmen and non-professionals during later seasons, save for a few appearances by Jerry Buss, Guy Laliberte, and one or two others, Baxter was one of the first from the business world to regularly compete in those early televised cash games.

The hedge fund manager is set to make his Poker After Dark return on Tuesday night, when he sits down for the first-ever $100,000 buy-in hybrid cash game. While Baxter is technically making his return to televised poker, it could feel like more of a debut, as the game and the players have drastically changed since he first stepped into the high stakes arena.

“I played three or four seasons of High Stakes Poker and one of Poker After Dark, but you know, I haven’t done this for like eight years.” Baxter laughed, before adding, “I’ve played a lot with the ‘older school guys,’ but there is this whole new generation that are really kind of dominating a lot of poker theory. I’m definitely looking forward to it though.”

This week, Baxter will be in close quarters with a few players from that new generation, including Doug Polk and Brian Rast. Combined, the two have amassed over $30 million in live tournament earnings and account for six World Series of Poker bracelets. Resumes aside, the way they approach and think about the game make them “pure pros” to Baxter.

“Like Doug Polk, for instance, has done some pretty advanced study of the game. I’m more someone that reads about some of that stuff, as opposed to being in constant contact with the top-50 poker theorists in the world.” Baxter said, when talking about his “High Stakes Hybrid” competitor and how he uses available poker content to finetune his own game.

While Baxter has been out of poker’s public eye for the better part of the last decade, he has gotten back into the game after a short hiatus. Recently, Baxter made what he calls a “positive” return to poker, but even during his time away from the felt, Baxter remained sharp and competitive through a different kind of game.

“I love games in general, I was a hedge fund and money manager for a lot of years and I kind of view that as a game. There is a bit longer time horizon for your investments, but it’s still trying to make educated choices every day, trying to be the benchmark by making good decisions.” Baxter explained, before comparing the trading world to poker. “Stocks have value characteristics just like starting hands have value characteristics, hands after the flop have value characteristics and so on.”

The analogies between the poker and business worlds are easy to make, but successfully competing in both is an extremely difficult task. A decade ago, as one of the first players from the business world to enter the high stakes arena, Mike Baxter proved he had what it took be successful. This week, he’ll return to Poker After Dark to prove that he is still the business world benchmark in high stakes televised poker.   

Watch Mike Baxter, Doug Polk, and more battle during three nights of "High Stakes Hybrid" action, only on PokerGO. Each session will consist of a brand-new hybrid cash game format, with $100,000 buy-ins and increasing blind levels throughout the night. Play begins each day at 6 PM ET and each "High Stakes Hybrid" stream will conclude around 12 PM ET.