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A Man for All Markets: From Las Vegas to Wall Street, How I Beat the Dealer and the Market Hardcover – January 24, 2017
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“In A Man for All Markets, [Thorp] delightfully recounts his progress (if that is the word) from college teacher to gambler to hedge-fund manager. Along the way we learn important lessons about the functioning of markets and the logic of investment.”—The Wall Street Journal
“[Thorp] gives a biological summation (think Richard Feynman’s Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!) of his quest to prove the aphorism ‘the house always wins’ is flawed. . . . Illuminating for the mathematically inclined, and cautionary for would-be gamblers and day traders”—
“[A Man for All Markets is] the kind of thing any would-be investor, to say nothing of casino cowboy, ought to read. Thorp’s in-the-trenches account of gaming the system(s) is a pleasure—and instructive, too.”—Kirkus Reviews
“An amazing book by a true icon . . . Edward O. Thorp launched revolutions in Vegas and on Wall Street by turning math into magic, and here he weaves his own life lessons into a page-turner as hot as a deck full of aces. Loved it!”—Ben Mezrich, New York Times bestselling author of Bringing Down the House and The Accidental Billionaires
“Whether you are an aspiring professional player, a casual gambler, or an occasional visitor to Las Vegas, you can feel the impact of Edward O. Thorp’s intellect on that desert city. In 1962, Thorp published the classic book Beat the Dealer. The text was based on Thorp’s original research that stemmed from his curiosity about the game of 21 and was billed as a how-to book for the layperson to beat the casinos at blackjack. Simply stated, it changed everything. A Man for All Markets chronicles Thorp’s personal journey in navigating the unexpected and sometimes dangerous obstacles that come along with challenging the status quo of a wealthy corporate adversary.”—Nicholas G. Colon, professional advantage gambler and managing director, Alea Consulting Group
“What a CV! Figure out how to win at blackjack using card counting? Check. Build the world’s first wearable computer? Check. Find the formula for valuing financial options but use it to make money rather than win a Nobel Prize? Check. This book is in part the gripping story of how one man’s genius and dedication has solved so many problems in diverse fields. But more important, it’s a fascinating insight into the thought processes of someone with little interest in fame, who has mostly stayed under the radar, yet who has followed his inquisitive mind wherever it has led him, and reaped the resulting rewards. There is nothing more important than knowing how to think clearly. Read this book and learn from a master.”—Paul Wilmott, founder, Wilmott magazine
About the Author
Edward O. Thorp is the author of the bestseller Beat the Dealer, which transformed the game of blackjack. His subsequent book, Beat the Market, co-authored with Sheen T. Kassouf, influenced securities markets around the globe. Thorp is one of the world’s best blackjack players and investors, and his hedge funds were profitable every year for twenty-nine years. He lives in Newport Beach, California.
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Top Customer Reviews
The book is basically four parts:
First, a relatively uninteresting account of Thorp's early years, which were mainly spent reading and experimenting.
Second, the stories of his successful card counting, roulette, and baccarat adventures, which were more interestingly told in "Beat the Dealer" and several other accounts.
Third, his investment management career, which was so consistently successful until it came to a screeching halt on federal charges against members of the east coast branch of his firm (Thorp does appear to have been completely uninvolved and unaware). Most of his success appears to have turned on what would today be considered fairly simple options arbitrage, albeit only simple because Thorp himself devised much of the foundational work on which options pricing rests today.
Fourth, and longest, a 120+ page meditation on the recent past, including a handful of successful investment ideas that have been discussed ad nauseam elsewhere (thrift conversions, the Palm/3Com arbitrage trade, statistical arb) and long ruminations on compound interest, personal finance, the hedge fund industry, personal fitness, time, and his interesting but fairly tangential interactions with Warren Buffett, among other things.
This section also contains a jarring discussion of Thorp having extensively vetted Bernie Madoff’s fund in 1991 and then conclusively proving that it was a fraud. Then, shockingly, other than telling an investor client to withdraw his funds, he sat on this information for 17 years despite having located investors who had entrusted at least $500m to Madoff, and likely being aware of far more. The SEC ignored Harry Markopolous, but it seems much more likely that they would have taken Thorp, a distinguished academic and well-connected public figure, seriously. It is hard to take Thorp’s moralizing on much smaller issues seriously when he seemingly sat on information that could have saved hundreds of investors their life savings. Thorp then describes a similar situation with a smaller $200m Ponzi scheme in 1982. Many of us may have failed to speak up as well, but Thorp devotes no time to the ramifications of his failure to act.
I came away very disappointed in this book - Thorp is a brilliant, brilliant individual who has contributed significantly to numerous fields - but most of these stories have already been told in classic works by Thorp himself, Klarman, Greenblatt, Poundstone, etc. The book feels padded with wise but fairly generic advice, and notably lacking in discussion of his family life and how he coped with the abrupt end of Princeton Newport, with a nearly two-decade skip between Chapter 16 and Chapter 17. I would still recommend this to almost anyone interested in gambling or finance (especially both!), and remain a fan of his, but I came away from this very disappointed.
Worth reading if you are a total quant history geek (as I am) and/or want to get a slightly different perspective on some things like EMH or stat arb (as I did), but almost unreadable for all the self-congratulation.
Other reviews have mentioned his remarkable achievements—not only inspiring modern options theory with his landmark book Beat the Market: A Scientific Stock Market System, but writing the Black-Scholes equation and using it for his own trading operations a full five years before Black & Scholes published this same formula to win the Nobel Prize. Inventing the first wearable computer, his encounters with the unsavory side of gambling, and other tales of note are sprinkled among equally enjoyable stories. These range from the time he was a graduate student at UCLA and gave a talk on solving the marriage problem titled "What Every Young Girl Should Know” to his musings on traffic and historical figures.
There were times when reading this book that I had to stop in amazement and wonder. Time and again, Ed Thorp articulates points and drives home insights that were obviously decades in the making. I just bought another dozen copies of this book and can’t wait to gift it to friends.
The stock market part is a bit abstruse, and Thorp founded his hedge fund at a time when the market was a different animal than it is today. I will back off here. I really don't know enough to judge how valuable Thorp's technical insights are. He does, however, provide some interesting anecdotes and some common sense advice about index investing.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Hedge on downside is important to avoid ruin death.
Stay abreast of market abnormality.
This is about his life not about investing.