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Liar's Poker (Norton Paperback) Paperback – March 15, 2010
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“The funniest book on Wall Street I’ve ever read.”
- Tom Wolfe
“Often profane, always hilarious, right on the mark.”
“So memorable and alive . . . one of those rare works that encapsulate and define an era.”
About the Author
Michael Lewis is the best-selling author of Liar’s Poker, Moneyball, The Blind Side, The Big Short, and The Undoing Project. He lives in Berkeley, California, with his wife and three children.
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I didn't read a Lewis book until Moneyball, but after that I was hooked and gobbled up The Big Short, Flashboys and the Undoing Project. After finishing his book on those Israeli psychologists, I picked up Boomerang, The Losers, The New New Thing and now Liar's Poker. Despite enjoying all of the aforementioned books (The Losers is a dream for people that follow politics), I was hesitant about Liar's Poker because I figured it was a dated book about Wall Street in the 1980s.
I am pleased to say that my concerns turned out to be unjustified. After graduating from the London School of Economics, Lewis fell into a job at Salomon Brothers (it was eventually absorbed into Citigroup). His first few months were spent with 120+ other young professionals with newly minted premium degrees (lots of Harvard and Stanford MBAs) in the Salomon Brothers highly regarded training course (an indoctrination series, really).
A few chapters covers the training course and the various professionals they were exposed to, as well as a history of both Salomon Brothers and the bond market. Lewis goes to work in the London office, where he was moved from a lowly trainee to a lowly geek. He learns at the heels of two extremely gifted salesmen and within six months, after completing a major trade, grows from a geek to a BSD (read the book).
Lewis was sitting next to the CEO of Salomon Brothers on the day of the Black Monday Crash and provides us with the helpless reactions of the traders on the floor, as well as the calculating response of his two mentors. Less than a year after the crash, Lewis left Wall Street because the belief in the value of money and those who made it had been shattered (he also acknowledges that he made enough to be comfortable and obviously wanted to write a book).
The housing collapse and stock market crash of 07-08 had it's roots in the 1980s scenes where Lewis describes the unscrupulous taking advantage of customers and the belief by the Street that the government would always bail them out. 28 years after it was first published, the book is still relevant and quite entertaining.
I worked for a major investment firm for 31 years and have seen many of the situations he writes about. The shenanigans he describes in his training class brought back fond memories of some great people and the stupid but entertaining things we did. Put a bunch of over-achievers in a room together for thirty days and strange things happen. Sadly about 80% of each class's trainees are gone (for various reasons) within three years. The job is not for everyone.
This is an entertaining and well-written book that is humorous and cynical at the same time. It may be a bit stuffy for readers not familiar with the esoteric products developed and offered on Wall Street, but Mr. Lewis takes the time to explain most of the concepts simply and completely. It is more of a biography and character study than some of his subsequent works, but interesting all the same.