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Vampire pong: Ex-Goldman banker takes on a pro

October 22, 2012: 1:28 AM ET

Greg Smith holds his own on the small court.

FORTUNE -- The thing you need to know about Greg Smith's ping-pong game is that he's everywhere. Smith, a former investment banker who is out with a Wall Street tell-all, lunges to return a serve. He runs around to the far corner of the table, turning what should be a backhand into a forehand. You could say he relentlessly jams his red paddle into any ball that comes near it (Vampire pong, anyone?), but he did miss a few shots.

Seriously, he's pretty good.

Halfway through a recent match, set up by Fortune between Smith and Wally Green, one of the top pros in the country, Smith crouches, leans his head toward the table and serves. The pro swings and misses. Ace.

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Earlier this year, Smith quit Goldman Sachs via an op-ed piece in the New York Times. His book, which is titled "Why I Left Goldman Sachs," comes out on Monday. In the op-ed, Smith accused Goldman of regularly ripping off its clients. He also said he was good at ping-pong. Goldman says it has investigated Smith's claims about the firm and found no wrong doing.

You would have to be an insider, or have subpoena power, to know who's telling the most truth. So, Fortune asked Smith to prove the one thing we could fact check - his ping-pong prowess. Smith says he included the fact that he had won a bronze medal in table tennis in the Maccabi games, a competition held every four years in Israel for Jewish athletes, in the editorial because table tennis was a big part of his young life, and to "prove that he has worked hard at things in his life."

Smith brought own paddle in a soft vinyl case to the match, which was held at Spin, a club in New York. The best part of Smith's game is his serve, which is a deceptive spinning wonder that appears to be going much faster than it is. His first serve of the match, like a number of others, goes right by Green. Smith is up 1-0. "That's a very good serve," says Green.

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Green rockets back Smith's next few serves and goes up 4-1. Smith can't handle them. The former investment banker is sweating and his dress shirt is out. It's looking like a blowout.

But on the next point, Smith goes cross court with his forehand, a winner. On another point Green and Smith trade shots, hitting them hard at each other, before Smith zaps a ball to Green's far right. Green reaches, but the ball deflects off the edge of his paddle. The ace puts Smith up 11-10.

The rest of the match, though, goes pretty quickly. Green masters Smith's serve. Smith hits a shot into the air. Another ball falls right in front of him. He looks like he can't believe he missed it.

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At 20-14, Smith hits a nice forehand to win a point. "He's coming back," says Green. Then Green serves an ace. The match is over 21-15. Smith loses.

Green, who says he plays Wall Streeters for money using his cell phone as a paddle, says Smith is the best investment banker he has every played. "He will kill anyone on Wall Street," says Green.

Goldman, take heed.

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About This Author
Stephen Gandel
Stephen Gandel

Stephen Gandel has covered Wall Street and investing for over 15 years. He joins Fortune from sister publication TIME, where he was a senior business writer and lead blogger for The Curious Capitalist. He has also held positions at Money and Crain's New York Business. Stephen is a four-time winner of the Henry R. Luce Award. His work has also been recognized by the National Association of Real Estate Editors, the New York State Society of CPA and the Association of Area Business Publications. He is a graduate of Washington University, and lives in Brooklyn with his wife and two children.

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