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Mar 03, 2018

Poker Champ Ludovic Lacay Becomes Intern at London Startup

By RTR Dennis

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Ludovic "Ludo" Lacay has had an excellent poker career, winning $3,272,752 in live tournaments. But he's moved on to a new challenge after accepting an intern position at a London startup.
That said, let's look back on Lacay's poker career and also discuss why he decided to walk away from his lucrative poker career to become an intern.

Early Success Leads to Sponsorship

Lacay began his poker career as a 19-year-old in Tolouse, France, because he "thought that poker could be something [he] could be good at." After gaining experience in online poker, he transitioned to the live poker world.

After quickly experiencing success here, the Frenchman landed a sponsorship deal with Winamax. This was key to him traveling the world and competing in the biggest poker tournaments.

Lacay told Business Insider that he felt being part of the new wave of young players was a major reason why he landed this big sponsorship deal. "You don't want to go the old approach and give sponsorships to famous players," he said. "You want the new generation, the new players — the internet players."

Being a member of Team Winamax meant traveling the live tournament circuit. And Lacay wasn't a big fan of this, namely because of the frenetic schedule. He also didn’t get a real chance to enjoy the tournament destinations.

"I was just going to places, playing the tournaments, staying in hotels, taking the next plane, and up, on to the next one," he explained. "That's actually a poker expression, 'on to the next one.' You just think about the next tournament."

Competitive Drive Fueled Lacay

While Lacay didn't like going from location to location, he did thoroughly enjoy poker's competitive environment.

"I've always been extremely driven," said Lacay. "When I have the runway to get better, it consumes me. I'm 150% into that thing, I really want to get in the top 1% of everything I do."
This way of thinking also helped Lacay avoid fixating on the financial side of poker.

"When you play poker you can't really have a relationship with money," he explained. "You're not playing money. You're playing a tournament, you're not playing for money."

Lacay Exits the Poker World

After winning millions of dollars in tournaments, Lacay felt that his poker career couldn't go much further. And with a new generation of skilled poker players entering the game, he thought that it was time to move on.

Lacay pondered whether he should study for an MBA, but eventually nixed this idea. He then landed an internship at Tictrac while waiting to see if he was accepted at Stanford University.

Tictrac is a tech-based health and wellness platform that uses data to help people make better decisions on their diet and exercise. This startup is similar to the Apple Watch and Health. And the company is already well on its way after raising £4 million in capital.

A friend got Lacay into the company, although he warned that there was no money available for interns. But given that Lacay is still comfortable with his poker winnings, he was more than willing to jump aboard.

From Intern to Full-Time

Lacay got an opportunity to perform a number of tasks at Tictric that helped his future career. He was asked to do everything from marketing to content management.

"Things that are very technical, and a bit boring," Lacay said of his tasks. "But the most interesting bit was the market research bit."

The former poker pro learned a lot about how products are made and the ins and outs of a major company. And he proved himself enough to where Tictrac hired him as full-time product manager, where he looks for faults in the products.

"[Tictrac] really had this 'insider vision'; when you're doing something and are inside of a project you don't have enough perspective," he said. "And I thought they were not heading quite in the direction they thought they were headed into. So I pointed out a few things."

Poker Skills Pay Off

Like anybody who's spent years playing poker, Lacay has applied some of his skills from the felt to his new gig.

For example, he constantly analyzed data in poker to predict opponents' decisions. At Tictrac, he uses data to understand what's not right with the products.

"I realized, those guys [Tictrac] got an input that's pretty massive, a lot of data coming in from markets, people, users, clients, etc., and then they run these huge experiments," Lacay explained.

"But right now, the outcome they're getting out of these is not really what they want. And they're not adjusting fast enough.”

Moving Up the Ladder

A skilled poker pro can work their way up the stakes, where higher profits await. And Lacay has applied this same model to his job, as he's gone from an intern to one of the leading product managers.

"I was learning, I was working a lot, 15 hours a day, like I did when I played poker, and the learning curve was super steep," he said.

"I saw it the way I saw poker in the first days. It's just a million things to learn, and I have to learn all of them as quickly as I can. And the only way to learn is to try.

"So every week I would come back to the office, I would grab a book, or watch a course, and say ok, we gotta try this. And I was lucky to be in an environment where they'd say, ok Ludo, you can try. And every time I tried, I learned."

Still Interested in Poker

Although he's fully committed to his position at Tictrac, Lacay hasn't completely forgotten about poker. In fact, he went to the 2017 WSOP and played some tournaments for fun.

"I actually enjoy it more now than before," he said. "Because now it's more fun and less stress. I'm coming in as an outsider. It's really hard to be famous. It's really, really hard.

"But when you're just coming in [for fun] and you're like, 'I don't know, let's just see what happens,' you're free."