- Hardcover: 416 pages
- Publisher: Random House (January 24, 2017)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1400067960
- ISBN-13: 978-1400067961
- Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.3 x 9.6 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 167 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #40,792 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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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
“So entertaining . . . pretty wonderful . . . Thorp’s manner of thinking and doing . . . is an inspiration in these confused times.”—Bloomberg.com
“[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.
Top customer reviews
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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.
How did he do it? “Education,” he explains in a later chapter.
He either taught himself or he learned from others. Indeed Chapter 1 is entitled “Loving to Learn.” He began as a poor boy in Lomita, California delivering newspapers in the morning and in the afternoon. He got into UCLA and graduated with a degree in physics and then went on to grad school to study mathematics. He became fascinated with challenges, most famously with the gambling card game, blackjack or twenty-one. He devised a point count system that, coupled with his ability to remember cards, allowed him to beat the casinos at their own game.
And then he wrote a bestselling book, “Beat the Dealer” showing others how it could be done. I read that book when it came out in the early Sixties and was fascinated. Because my memory is only average I ended up playing poker instead of blackjack--but that’s another story.
Following up on his success at twenty-one, Thorp, along with Claude Shannon, designed and built a mechanical and electrical device that allowed them to gain an advantage in roulette by predicting with some proficiency approximately where the bouncing ball would end up. That was quite a coup especially considering that it happened fifty-some years ago.
This takes us through the first ten chapters. Then in Chapter 11: “Wall Street: The Greatest Casino on Earth” Thorp turns his attention to the financial markets. The titles of the next 14 chapters not only outline the story but could serve as something like a syllabus for a graduate course in investing. Viz., “Front-Running, The Quantitative Revolution, Swindles and Hazards, Buying Low, Selling High, Hedging Your Bets, Compound Growth, Beat Most Investors by Indexing, Asset Allocation and Wealth Management, etc.”
There’s an illuminating chapter on financial crises and lessons not learned. Thorp concludes with Chapter 30 “Thoughts,” which I found fascinating. There are also five appendices, three on inflation and the dollar, historical returns, and the performance of his fantastically successful hedge fund, Princeton Newport Partners.
I think it is important in accounting for Thorp’s extraordinary success to realize that he was very good with people and formed valuable friendships with knowledgeable and gifted persons including the afore-mentioned Claude Shannon, Warren Buffet and others. Additionally, his curiosity and love of challenges took him places others couldn’t go. Finally, there was the loving support of his very talented wife, Vivian. If I were giving out advice on how to be successful in this world I would say first pick your spouse wisely.
Also, Thorp was thrifty. On page 86 we learn that when he was playing blackjack in Las Vegas he would call his wife collect and to save money would ask for “’Edward __ Thorp,’ the middle initial being a code we had devised to tell how many thousands of dollars we were ahead or, if the initial came before ‘Edward,’ how many behind…” “After hearing the name of the person being called, Vivian would politely tell the operator that Mr. Thorp ‘wasn’t here at the moment.’”
I think it is a good lesson to understand that not only is a penny saved a penny earned but it’s worth more than that because what’s saved is untaxed and the money can be invested. Thorp elaborates on the value of thrift in building wealth elsewhere in the book especially on page 269.
I want to say that I have a personal affinity for both this book and its author because of some similarities in the lives we have led. For those interested see my recently published memoir “If I Had Been a Better Man.”
Okay now for some tidbits from the amazing professor of gambling and markets.
“Joseph Heller and Kurt Vonnegut were at a party given by a billionaire…Vonnegut asked Heller how it felt to know that their host might have made more money in one day than Heller’s “Catch-22” since it was written.” Heller replied that “he had something the rich man could never have.” Vonnegut wondered what that might be, and Heller answered, “The knowledge that I’ve got enough.” (p. 213)
Thorp actually discovered in 1991 that Bernie Madoff’s trades were fakes and that he was running a Ponzi scheme. See pages 213-219.
A joke: “…pronounced MADE-off, as in “with your money.” (p. 217)
If you haven’t heard of the so-called “secretary/marriage problem” in math turn to page 224. The problem is when to say yes to get the best candidate. Once you say no you usually don’t get another chance and you may find the remaining candidates not as good. On the other hand, if you say yes too soon you might miss the best choice.
Thorp’s answer to high frequency trading: “a small federal tax…a few cents a share…” (p. 231)
On the crisis in funding for the California university system: “To starve education is to eat our seed corn. No tax today, no technology tomorrow.” (p. 341)
--Dennis Littrell, author of “The World Is Not as We Think It Is”
Most recent customer reviews
Ed Thorpe is a great man. He is a brilliant mind.