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the Borgata in Atlantic City. At the time,
I had a BlackBerry, and I would play
poker on it. I had never played live
poker, any kind of poker. Back then, the
TMA Mid-Atlantic event would end
Friday at about 10 a.m.
The Borgata Summer Poker Open,
which is a World Series of Poker
event, was starting that day, and a
couple of guys from TMA were going
to play in the event. So I called my
wife and told her I was going to play
in the event. She said, “How long do
you think it’s going to take. You’ve
got to deal with the kid.” I said, “Oh,
it’ll probably be about two hours.”
So I sat down and 12 hours later,
at 11 p.m., I had 50 percent of all
the chips in play. I’m winning the
tournament. I was like, “This is a
career change!” It was getting late,
and my wife was texting me, saying,
“You’re kidding! You’ve got to come
home! What are you doing?”
I don’t know if I got distracted or what,
but I ended up losing around that
point. But I did place 31st out of 508
players. When you cash in a World
Series of Poker event, you get ranked
nationally. So if you Google “Oren
Klein poker,” you’ll see I cashed in a
professional poker event. I won $414.
So, of course, after that I thought,
“Wait a second. I’m really good
at this.” I was not good. That was
where luck met opportunity. You
either get the cards or you don’t.
Q So you decided not to quit your day job. How had you gravitated
into turnaround work?
I was a high-stress rental
broker in New York City in the mid
‘90s in the West Village. The market
was going gangbusters at the time.
Then I started working commercial
real estate, working on investment
property sales. Every once in a while
there’d be a bankruptcy case that I’d
get involved in, and I found it to be
very interesting. I learned a lot from all
the lawyers, accountants, appraisers,
trustees, and judges—all the
professionals in a case. I realized the
sale of the asset was one of the most
important aspects of the case.
Then in the early 2000s, I jumped
on the dot-com startup train,
and I started an online auction
platform for real estate.
Q How was that received initially? Did people warm to online
auctions right away?
They actually never warmed
to the idea at that time. It was well-received in that we got tons of eyeballs
to the website, and we were in the
newspapers a lot. We had listed some
large buildings, but it ultimately just
wasn’t there yet. That venture
eventually failed, but it was a good run
and that’s what got me into auctions.
Online auctions at the time didn’t
take off, but I still discovered all of
the benefits of the auction process,
of getting people to bid against each
other instead of against the seller in a
traditionally negotiated transaction.
That’s when I found the love of
auctions. Then I started working for a
traditional real estate auction firm, and
I’ve been doing auctions ever since.
In the last couple of years, we added
another component to the business,
which is business liquidations and
personal property auctions, so we
do the whole gamut of auctions.
I do both sales for trustees and