In the months before the crypto empire he helped build collapsed and burned to the ground, the former co-head of Alameda Research enthusiastically tweeted about his aggressive player instincts, how he honed them at poker and blackjack, and how he applied those lessons used cryptocurrency trading.
“I may or may not get banned from 3 casinos for this,” Sam Trabucco once tweeted about counting cards at blackjack tables.
Trabucco’s story is just a sideshow to crypto exchange FTX’s black magic, which saw billions in crypto “investments” disappear in a dramatic flash earlier this month.
But it does give a glimpse into the mentality of those who have fomented a crypto bubble that has drained the pockets of individuals aggressive enough to challenge FTX CEO Sam Bankman-Fried’s view of the world and the riches that exist come from crypto to believe.
“I also bought a boat, which was cool.”
– Sam Trabucco on Twitter
Alameda Research, which Trabucco helped direct before retiring in August, is a bankman-fried hedge fund. Alameda appears to have used FTX customer crypto to offset tragically bad investment decisions. Trabucco, who has not been publicly accused of wrongdoing, abruptly resigned as co-CEO in August, leaving Caroline Ellison as sole CEO of Alameda.
During his time at Alameda, Trabucco tweeted positively about the connection between poker, blackjack and crypto.
“Bigger is bigger (when betting is better),” he wrote in a Jan. Nov. 2021, tweet thread explaining how gambling strategies have impacted Alameda’s trades. It was the same series of posts in which Trabucco boasted that he might – or might not – have been banned from three casinos.
A post from July this year showed a poker table with chips on it, with the comments “I’ve always wanted to do this” and “I should stick to trading.” The next post revealed that Trabucco was in Las Vegas.
(Trabucco isn’t the only Bankman Fried grad with a questionable connection to poker. Dan Friedberg, who left FTX shortly before it collapsed, was once an attorney involved in a poker cheating scandal.)
Trabucco said Alameda uses Vegas-style risky bets in the company’s business. Months ago, when exchange OKX paused withdrawals, Alameda aggressively began buying up positions from people trying to reduce exposure to the exchange, Trabucco said. “Not only are we not sellers, we are HUGE buyers – even if it’s risky – because indeed we can take the risk and this trade is, for all we know, GREAT – was crucial and that’s something we’ve always done.” are to do with the goal,” he said in a January post.
In a 2021 YouTube UpOnly episode, Trabucco spoke about playing poker in college and two years later. “Now I really don’t tip that much,” he said, referring to a poker term for when players let emotions get the best of them. Trabucco said he is now trying to avoid tipping but admitted to sometimes making impulsive purchases.
“This watch, I literally don’t remember buying this watch,” Trabucco said on UpOnly.
According to his LinkedIn profile, Trabucco earned a math with computer science degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2015. He did crossword puzzles for a while. He even had one published in the New York Times while he was in college. He did an internship at State Street and was a trader at Susquehanna International Group before joining Alameda in 2019, about two years after Bankman-Fried founded the trading company.
Trabucco did not respond to requests for comment.
Much is still unknown about the exact details of Alameda’s troubles and how its losses contributed to it, FTX and more than 130 related companies being taken to bankruptcy court.
Los Angeles Times contributor Russ Mitchell contributed to this report.