In the ping pong game of life, even your most trusted blade can’t swat away an opponent with super-sized balls.—Unknown

On Monday morning, Grand Central Publishing will release Why I Left Goldman Sachs: A Wall Street Story, a memoir penned by former Goldman employee Greg Smith, based on his op-ed for the New York Times entitled, “Why I Am Leaving Goldman Sachs.” When Smith’s piece came out last March, few if any senior executives inside the bank were pleased, in part because it came as a total shock. No one at Goldman had known Smith was planning to have his resignation letter printed in the paper. No one had known he had issues with the firm’s supposedly new and singular focus on making money at all costs. No one, at least at the top, even knew who Greg was. Obviously all this left the bank at a competitive disadvantage in terms of fighting back and for the time being, Smith appeared to be handing Goldman its ass. Getting cocky, even. Perhaps thinking to himself, “When all of this is over, I could be named the new CEO of Goldman Sachs.”  As anyone who has ever won a bronze medal in ping-pong at the Maccabiah Games will tell you, however, winners are determined by best of threes. And that anyone going to to the table with Goldman Sachs should be prepared for things to get ugly.

Which is why it should not have come as a surprise that after getting hydrated, regrouping, and coming up with a plan of attack, Goldman kicked off round two with a delightfully bitchy, exceptionally underminery comment to the press re: Smith’s tale being no more interesting than that of a disgruntled first-year analyst who thinks he’s got a story to tell and then followed it up with a leak of Greg’s less than flattering performance reviews to the Financial Times. What probably did come as a surprise, however, was today’s hilariously aggressive Bloomberg article re: Mr. Smith wherein:

* He’s described as a petulant child with unrealistic expectations for his career advancement

* It’s suggested, by saying outright, that his op-ed complaints about the firm were nothing more than him having “an axe to grind” on account of not advancing beyond vice-president, as demonstrated by the fact that as of 2010, he was happy with the firm, wanted to become a managing director and had no intention of leaving

* People are left to connect the dots re: Smith and lady bosses (“Goldman Sachs put a different managing director in charge of Smith as it considered giving him a sales job. The report says he ‘found the transition difficult’ and considered the female MD who ran the desk a peer at not his boss”)

Anyway, as we head into the final game of the set with a tie score, the following is a tremendous anecdote from Chapter 3 of Why I Left Goldman Sachs involving an actual game of ping-pong, John Whitehead’s Business Principles, and the lessons one learns as a first-year at GS about the importance of throwing a match to a client despite knowing full-well you could wipe the floor with him or her (and thinking you were sent to Boston to do just that), if you so chose. 

After hearing of my past sports success, Rudy immediately fired off an e-mail to Ted Simpson, saying “Springbok will be representing the New York desk at the Ping-Pong tournament.”

Simpson wrote back: “Who’s Springbok?”

In response, Rudy e-mailed him a photograph of a springbok, the actual animal. You had to be there, but I thought it was hilarious.

So I flew to Boston on Goldman’s tab– the justification being that while there, I could meet with Prakash and talk Israeli tech stocks– and met Ted Simpson.

[…]

The backstory of the annual Goldman Sachs Ping-Pong Tournament, Ted told me, was that the same guy, an Indian portfolio manager from Putnam, had won it five years in a row, and that winning the tournament was the highlight of the guy’s year. But from the moment I walked into Jillian’s- a pleasure palace replete with free-flowing alcohol, spicy chicken wings, bowling alleys, plasma TVs, and dozens of Foosball, pool and table tennis tables– and saw my alleged competition practicing, I knew he didn’t have a chance against me.

I’m not trying to brag. But competitive table tennis, like every sport, has its levels. Any number of internationally ranked players could have (and had) made mincemeat out of me, yet simply put, the Putnam portfolio manager (let’s call him PPM) and I were not in the same league. I was confident he wouldn’t be able to return my serve, and if it came to a rally, he wouldn’t be prepared for the kind of sever spins I could put on the ball. I could see he was a very good basement player, nothing more. I could have beaten him in my sleep.

The tournament draw was posted. Thirty-two people, and PPM was seeded number one. Since the organizers knew I was good, I was the number two seed. Play began.

I was rusty– I’d been working such long hours since joining Goldman that I’d barely picked up a paddle– but soon I remembered my form. And nobody gave me a serious challenge. PPM and I plowed through our halves of the draw, heading toward an inevitable confrontation. I watched a couple of his matches. PPM’s opponents were easy pickings: recreational players dressed in jeans and polo shirts. And PPM, looking very professional in his special sneakers and running shorts, T-shirt, and headband, was mopping them up. Of course he’d brought his own paddle– a serious player would never show up without his own stick. And of course I’d brought along my trusty Donic Appelgren blade, red on one side, black on the other.

Ted Simpson and I were looking on as PPM took down another player. “So what are we thinking here?” I asked Ted. “I”m going to meet this guy in the final, and if play properly, I’m going to beat him twenty-one to two. What’ the right course of action?”

Ted looked thoughtful. “Well,” he said after a moment, “this guy is one of our biggest clients; he takes this stuff really seriously.” At that moment, PPM whaled away at a forehand that just clipped the table edge and skipped off, unreturnable; he raised his arms in victory. “We need to make it a close game,” Ted said. “Get some good rallies going.”

I told Ted I had been thinking along the same lines. That I should beat PPM, because it was obvious I could beat him, but that I should keep it close. Not embarrass him. I knew how to do that, I said. You just make a few unforced errors here and there.

“Hmm,” Ted said.

“You have a different idea?” I asked.

“Well, the guy is one of our biggest clients,” he repeated, giving me a significant look.

“You’re suggesting–?”

“Maybe,” he said. And then: “Watch for my signal.”

I gave Ted a look– he was smiling– and took my Donic out of its case.

The match began. A crowd had gathered to watch us play. Everybody was having fun– except for my opponent, who was taking the match very seriously. When I won a few points in the early going, I could see him getting upset.

So I eased up. I could have really turned on the heat, hit some crazy shots past him that would have whizzed by his ear– but I didn’t. My whole plan was to keep the ball in play. To give the crowd a good show, instead of slicing the ball back when PPM smashed it at me, I would lob it up for him so he could smash it again. Smash, lob. Smash, lob. Oohs and has from the onlookers. After three or four exchanges like this, I’d either hit it into the net or give PPM such an easy pop-up that he could make a legitimate put-away on me. I was letting him show off for his fellow clients a little bit. He loved it.

The matches were best two out of three, and my plan was to squeak out a win in the second game, then maybe win by just a little more in the third. But when I was ahead 15 to 12 in the second, Ted Simpson caught my eye. He gave a little shake of the head, and then, using his left hand as a shield, gave me a quick thumbs-down with his right. I’m quite sure nobody but Ted and I knew what was going on. I nodded. After all, wasn’t putting the client first number one of John Whitehead’s 14 Business Principles?

The Putnam portfolio manger was very magnanimous in victory– as i was in defeat.

Greg Smith Quit Goldman Sachs After ‘Unrealistic’ Pitch For $1M [Bloomberg]

Earlier: Greg Smith: Goldman Sachs Interns Taught Harsh But Important Lessons By Demanding But Affable Managing Directors; What Else Does Goldman Sachs Have In Store For Greg Smith?; Goldman Sachs Unimpressed By Sophomoric Writing Efforts Of Former Employee; Resignation Letter Reveals Goldman Sachs Is In The Business Of Making Money, Hires People Who Don’t Know How To Tie Their Shoes; Jewish Ping-Pong Tournament Participant / Sixth-Year Goldman Sachs Vice President Is Looking For His Next Challenge; Goldman Sachs Accuser Greg Smith (Might Have) Lied About That Which He Holds Most Sacred

83 comments (hidden to protect delicate sensibilities)
Show all comments ↓

Comments (83)

  1. Posted by Lloyd | October 18, 2012 at 3:25 PM

    Ping pong? We're talking about ping pong man.

  2. Posted by Guestido | October 18, 2012 at 3:26 PM

    What a fucking dweeb

  3. Posted by pazzo83 | October 18, 2012 at 3:28 PM

    This book should be a best-seller in 2013.

    – Mayans

  4. Posted by PPM | October 18, 2012 at 3:38 PM

    I call BS.

  5. Posted by guest | October 18, 2012 at 3:39 PM

    Goldman PR must be getting happier with each excerpt release, because this stuff is just breathtakingly dull. I almost want it to cut deeper, but this is barely interesting. Looking forward to Grand Central Publishing clawing back as much of that advance as possible.

  6. Posted by Translator | October 18, 2012 at 3:40 PM

    "You had to be there" = I think I just told a stupid joke

  7. Posted by guest | October 18, 2012 at 3:42 PM

    There are different levels in baseball. If I wanted to, I could have gone all Carlos Beltran on them, but since the O's and the Tigers are such big clients of ours…

    – A-Rod

  8. Posted by actual email once | October 18, 2012 at 3:44 PM
  9. Posted by LMFAO | October 18, 2012 at 3:46 PM

    Hadn't picked up a paddle in years…

  10. Posted by spot you 12 | October 18, 2012 at 3:49 PM

    These guys are really cute.

    Ming

    -13 year old, 90 lb chinawoman

  11. Posted by guesticles | October 18, 2012 at 3:50 PM

    book advances only get taken back if you don't produce the book, which he clearly did. knowledge, get some of it.

  12. Posted by guest | October 18, 2012 at 3:50 PM

    Saying "You had to be there" in a an actual, published book is the NKI

  13. Posted by Guest | October 18, 2012 at 3:52 PM

    Never happened.

    He lifted this bit from a Brady Bunch episode.

  14. Posted by Guestacular | October 18, 2012 at 3:52 PM

    "red on one side, black on the other."

    I would have had no idea what the paddle looked like without this description

  15. Posted by Guest | October 18, 2012 at 3:56 PM

    This book is going to be so bad that I'm going to have to read it.

  16. Posted by Guest | October 18, 2012 at 3:57 PM

    "but since the O's and the Tigers are such big clients of ours…"

    I decided to be my normal d-bag self and ask for some chick's digits.

  17. Posted by guest | October 18, 2012 at 3:59 PM

    Absolutely the worst knock-off of Liar's Poker yet. Guaranteed he uses the term "Big Swinging Dick" at some point…

  18. Posted by "team/desk" | October 18, 2012 at 4:00 PM

    Hey !

    UBS via Merrill wealth management

  19. Posted by Guest | October 18, 2012 at 4:00 PM

    I wonder how much Smith paid Cosmo Kramer for that yarn.

    – J. Peterman

  20. Posted by Guest | October 18, 2012 at 4:01 PM

    Seriously, the guy refers to a ping pong paddle as a "blade"

  21. Posted by The thinker | October 18, 2012 at 4:03 PM

    should i bother watching this somewhere funright now and start drinking before the football or stay til 5?

  22. Posted by L. Auchincloss, CFA | October 18, 2012 at 4:04 PM

    Greg, this is a bad story and you should feel bad.

  23. Posted by Lynn Tilton | October 18, 2012 at 4:04 PM

    Hey !

  24. Posted by guest | October 18, 2012 at 4:10 PM

    "Jillian's-a pleasure palace…" Guy really didn't get out much.

  25. Posted by Guest | October 18, 2012 at 4:10 PM

    What Greg Smith does not know at this point is that Tim Simpson has ten grand on the Indian PM. The prefect sting.

  26. Posted by Guest | October 18, 2012 at 4:15 PM

    Didn't he see Gladiator? Thumbs down means "kill him," not follow one of John Whitehead’s 14 Business Principles

  27. Posted by Im_a_Dude | October 18, 2012 at 4:19 PM

    I'm on the edge of my seat. he should be an announcer for Wimbledon.

  28. Posted by trades at discount | October 18, 2012 at 4:20 PM

    , and that's when we knew he'd never make it in this biz.

  29. Posted by Peedatgs | October 18, 2012 at 4:22 PM

    I can't believe the dirty underhanded dealings that go on at that place just to make money. Dirty ping pongers.

  30. Posted by guest | October 18, 2012 at 4:26 PM

    in scare quotes just like that.

  31. Posted by guest | October 18, 2012 at 4:28 PM

    And a "stick"

  32. Posted by Dateraider | October 18, 2012 at 4:36 PM

    The Donic Appelgren is a highly sensitive Swedish allround blade. Depending on the rubber you combine this blade with, it is suitable for all modern table tennis strategies.

    – Greg

  33. Posted by Shecky Blankfein | October 18, 2012 at 4:43 PM

    Two Goldman Sachs investment bankers had been working all night setting up the commisary for the Goldman Sachs Ping Pong Tournament. They were tired from not only working a 14 hours that day but having to travel and work all night to set up the refreshment stand. While in the process of setting up folding tables and readying a small refrigerator and crock pot, one GS guy noted contestants and onlooker/employees starting to show up for the tourney. He noted, "I wonder how long it will be before someone walks up and asks us what we're doing?" About that time, an equity sales rep for GS from Dallas saunters over and asks, "What are you guys doing here?"

    First GS guy says, "Well, why… as a matter of fact we're selling assholes……

    Equities Guy from Dallas replies, "Well you must be doing good cause it looks like you've only got two left!"

  34. Posted by 2013 Intern | October 18, 2012 at 4:44 PM

    Are the hookers and blow in Chapter 4?

  35. Posted by Guest | October 18, 2012 at 4:46 PM

    "and took my Donic out of its case"

    No knowing anything about pinball, I thought this was going in a completely different direction

  36. Posted by guest | October 18, 2012 at 4:53 PM

    crap, meant ping pong……i suck

  37. Posted by Give up | October 18, 2012 at 4:56 PM

    "…doing WELL". Other than that, I have a number of concerns.

  38. Posted by Guesteeculos | October 18, 2012 at 4:56 PM

    And not a a single pair of panties in the room was dry…

    Great stuff, riveting !!

    Saw the replay on the ocho.

    – Ping Pong Nation

  39. Posted by guest | October 18, 2012 at 5:02 PM

    Warning: in level 38 of future Goldman Sachs interviews, they will require you read Greg Smith's book. Anyone who pisses on it gets a free pass to level 41.

  40. Posted by PermaGuestII | October 18, 2012 at 5:21 PM

    It would make a better story if he was a pinball player.

  41. Posted by PermaGuestII | October 18, 2012 at 5:21 PM

    "The Gods Must Be Crazy III" A comic allegory about a traveling South African simpleton who encounters modern civilization and its stranger aspects, including a clumsy analyst and a band of boring salesmen.

  42. Posted by PermaGuestII | October 18, 2012 at 5:24 PM

    Did anybody else start laughing at the visual of the customer in his t-shirt, special shoes *and headband*?

  43. Posted by Gormania | October 18, 2012 at 5:30 PM

    GS secret to success is letting Indian's beat you at ping pong?

  44. Posted by Guest | October 18, 2012 at 5:32 PM

    Jillian's = goddamn arcade.

  45. Posted by Agent Smith | October 18, 2012 at 5:39 PM

    "The Putnam portfolio manger was very magnanimous in victory– as i was in defeat."

    I was so magnanimous, in fact, that I felt obliged to include the story in my book, going on record to tell the world that I could have beaten him in my sleep.

  46. Posted by Guest | October 18, 2012 at 5:46 PM

    Probably not none of them would talk to him. "Big Swinging Donic" does appear multiple times though.

  47. Posted by Dan Loeb | October 18, 2012 at 5:51 PM

    There is word that there is a chapter on a wild bachelor party that included drinking and tales of a stripper going topless. I am at the edge of my seat and cannot wait to read of mid level investment banker debauchery.

  48. Posted by Gregs last date | October 18, 2012 at 5:53 PM

    and when the donic, which turned out to be a small piece of wood, was out of its case, he seemed to be trying and maneuver it close to my lips and mouth as he presented it to me proudly. He began moving it in a sort of rythmic manner which disturbed me so I left.

  49. Posted by jillians frequenter | October 18, 2012 at 5:55 PM

    "replete with rows of skee ball and even a virtual horse race betting area.
    One of the MDs who attended to watch his associate in the tournament, swiped his Jillians card to start the race. "

    "His horse won the race via a series of button pushes and whips.. afterwards 10s of tickets came out of the kiosk.. He handed them to me and said 'this is how its done'…"

  50. Posted by FKApmco | October 18, 2012 at 5:57 PM

    And if he was deaf and blind…pretty sure he has dumb covered.

  51. Posted by Scarecrow | October 18, 2012 at 6:09 PM

    This is a courageous tale of an employee willing to leave after he gets his money, and book advance.

  52. Posted by Dick Gookta | October 18, 2012 at 6:09 PM

    and sitting in on conference calls

  53. Posted by Anonymous | October 18, 2012 at 6:17 PM

    Manger?

  54. Posted by guest | October 18, 2012 at 6:25 PM

    Just wait for the anecdote where he pretended his name was Graham to a summer intern, and then intern totally called him Graham for like, 2 weeks.

    – Guy who is pretty sure the phrase "You had to be there" will occur more than once in this book

  55. Posted by thisbooksucks | October 18, 2012 at 6:30 PM

    Amazing. He has the journalistic genius and charisma of greg michaels and dennis kneal… Combined!!

  56. Posted by Donic marketing rep. | October 18, 2012 at 6:36 PM

    Son of a bitch…

  57. Posted by Jeter | October 18, 2012 at 6:41 PM

    too soon

  58. Posted by güest | October 18, 2012 at 6:41 PM

    ye's

  59. Posted by Allen I. | October 18, 2012 at 6:48 PM

    I hear ya.

  60. Posted by Joe & Mary | October 18, 2012 at 7:54 PM

    Yeah, he said "manger." What of it?

  61. Posted by vvvv | October 18, 2012 at 7:58 PM

    he has a small cock, nuff said

  62. Posted by Guest | October 18, 2012 at 9:58 PM

    Yeah Nicki got a fake ass anyway. Bess got that real shit like us girls down south got. Nicki's real name probably was Nick anyway, fuck her man ass.

  63. Posted by Guest | October 18, 2012 at 9:59 PM

    At this point, goldman's Media Relations team is equipped with the PR equivalent of fully automatic military assault rifles, with night vision and laser scopes. And has recently acquired phosphorous grenades, cluster bombs and anti personnel fragmentation mines.

    (RIP, George Carlin)

  64. Posted by guest | October 18, 2012 at 10:08 PM

    Holy shit, the Lynn Tilton jokes stopped being funny 5 months ago. Kill yourself

  65. Posted by No Jezebels | October 18, 2012 at 11:02 PM

    Bess Aint Worried About How A Hating Ass Hoe Feel Cause She Still Making Her Money And Her Bills Still Getting Paid. You Know She Doing Something Right If She Got You Bitches Hating. What You Haters Need To Be Doing Is Trying To Get Like Her And Get Yall Money Up:!

  66. Posted by E. Cartman | October 18, 2012 at 11:58 PM

    Hey – it's called table tennis, and you should know that. Don't cheapen the sport, Jew.

  67. Posted by Captain M | October 19, 2012 at 6:39 AM

    I cant wait for his next book "50 Shades of Greg" where he shoves that Donic up his ass… sideways.

  68. Posted by 2 cubes over | October 19, 2012 at 8:44 AM

    Seriously, what the fuck is this fucking shit? What is happening and why is it here? Go away. All of you.

  69. Posted by not Goldfarb | October 19, 2012 at 8:58 AM

    Boy you mangered that position Dick.

    We'll be lucky to get outa this one….

  70. Posted by amateur comedy coach | October 19, 2012 at 9:29 AM

    no, 'pinball' way funnier.

  71. Posted by Captain S | October 19, 2012 at 10:02 AM

    Tough, but where?

  72. Posted by Captain Morg | October 19, 2012 at 10:19 AM

    Working at an investment bank is so 2000 and late…

  73. Posted by Clients first | October 19, 2012 at 10:27 AM

    Love George !!!! RIP

  74. Posted by Clients first | October 19, 2012 at 10:33 AM

    fuck emmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm

  75. Posted by long'un | October 19, 2012 at 10:46 AM

    How can you be magnanimous in defeat, you haven't got anything to be nmagnanimous about?

    Twat means gracious.

  76. Posted by Guest | October 19, 2012 at 11:08 AM

    First thought that comes to mind when I see Mr. Smith.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u-vlRDoG6pE

  77. Posted by Limited | October 19, 2012 at 1:56 PM

    Pauly is that you ?

  78. Posted by procalisx | October 19, 2012 at 2:08 PM
  79. Posted by LetsBreel | October 19, 2012 at 2:16 PM

    "I could have really turned on the heat, hit some crazy shots past him that would have whizzed by his ear"

    Hitting balls up near an opponents face is something my five year old nephew is excellent at. Guess we have a future world champion on our hands.

  80. Posted by silagra | October 19, 2012 at 6:41 PM
  81. Posted by Wilford T Braintree | October 20, 2012 at 5:30 PM

    When did he travel to China with Forrest Gump I forget-

  82. Posted by Jay | October 22, 2012 at 12:54 AM

    Hmm, you were doing well with the first line, but afterwards the metaphor becomes a tad stretched.

  83. Posted by Car Title Loans | October 1, 2013 at 1:31 AM

    sometimes it is not always popular to join someone like goldman sachs because you will not receive any leeway or personal training they are a shark tank kind of organization and this is common knowledge in the financial community..