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Liar's Poker: Rising Through the Wreckage on…

Liar's Poker: Rising Through the Wreckage on Wall Street (1989)

by Michael Lewis

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I am a big fan of Michael Lewis so it is hard for me to be objective in a review but I do think this book is brilliant.
Personally I have not ready a better book that sums up the greed and gluttony of 1980's Wall Street.
One thing that I found fascinating, especially with our recent financial collapse and history to compare and contrast, is that this book so clearly shows that as smart and as slick as some people can be in their quest to get rich in the financial markets ultimately Wall Street is simply one big giant casino and the people that work there are for the most part simply gamblers.
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  AskTheTicketGuy | May 3, 2015 |
This is a really interesting snapshot of Wall Street in the Reagan era. The Street is now, decidedly, no longer the province of the old-money-wannabes. Now we have the many more ethnic names and much more of a fraternity atmosphere. The white shoes have been largely displaced by the "big swinging dicks." If you look on Wall Street firms as serious businesses applying arcane knowledge to the market in order to reap profits, you will be sadly disappointed by most of what you see in this book. The essence of Wall Street is a bluff game, like Liar's Poker, and it isn't insight into the market that gets you ahead so much as a gift for theatrics and a keen judgment of other people's weaknesses. There are hints of what was to come--Lewis Ranieri features pretty heavily in the book. He is the man who invented the mortgage bond, and he hired a number of PhDs to figure out was of managing and manipulating the risks in such bonds. At the time Lewis is writing, the mortgage-backed security (MBS) was known primarily as an instrument through which home ownership could be democratized. And it was: there were far more people who *could* carry a low-rate mortgage than would get one offered to them. By making the risk on such loans more predictable (by bundling them) MBSs made those loans possible. But the risk manipulation Ranieri used for good would soon be employed by people who a) didn't understand the math well; and b) had significant incentive (commissions) little disincentive (prospective personal losses) to creating bad deals. Deals where risk was masked, not managed. These PhDs (quants) would be the definitive figures in the next generation on Wall Street, and in its next series of disasters. ( )
  ehines | Feb 15, 2015 |
For some reason people can't bring up Liar's Poker without mentioning Bonfire of the Vanities as well. It's almost as if Liar's Poker is the nonfiction counterpart to the fictional Bonfire of the Vanities. Yes, they are both about the innards of life on Wall Street in the mid 80s, but one could stand without the attachment of the other and still be entertaining.
Michael Lewis retraces his beginnings with Salomon Brothers, first as a bright eyed trainee, then as a bond salesman. It is his knack for writing that makes Liar's Poker such a treat to read. It is bitingly funny, wicked and fun. My favorite part is about the new guy, so nervous about his first day on the job that he does nothing but ride the elevator up and down until he has the courage to finally get off, exit the building and disappear forever. ( )
1 vote SeriousGrace | Jul 23, 2013 |
Interesting Wall St memoir - Lewis worked for an investment bank in the late '70s through to beyond the '87 crash.

The anecdotes from actual time in the business keep this a surprisingly fun read. Lewis is quite funny and cutting about his fellow traders, but never completely absolves himself either, e.g:
It was striking how little control we had of events, particularly in view of how assiduously we cultivated the appearance of being in charge by smoking big cigars and saying fuck all the time.
He also explains finance concepts well, without making my eyes glaze (e.g. I now have a vague and hazy understanding of mortgage backed securities, CMOs, and junk bonds, although I am unconvinced it will stick). A lot of what he's writing about has implications for the more recent global financial troubles, even though it's more than 20 years old. I will eventually try and get to [b:The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine|6463967|The Big Short Inside the Doomsday Machine|Michael Lewis|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1290480108s/6463967.jpg|6654434]. ( )
1 vote daisyq | Apr 5, 2013 |
Liar's Poker is the ultra high-stakes game played in Wall Street companies by the brokers with the obscenely high commissions they get from trading in the investment market.

What results is either extreme wealth and satisfaction, probably quite a few of these people are psychopaths, guilt and a change in career, or [b:American Psycho|28676|American Psycho|Bret Easton Ellis|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1348400564s/28676.jpg|2270060], a rather fun fictional book on the ultimate psycho on Wall Street.

The book is highly recommended for lots of open-mouthed, geez, people act like that, say things like that moments and because Michael Lewis, as always, knows his subject well and writes about it in a very entertaining and non-dry way. Great read.

Addendum The author quite obviously dislikes and has nothing but contempt for the banking industry - he resigned from Salomon Brothers to write this book but was still married to Diana de Cordova, an investment banker with Morgan Stanley. I wonder if his book had anything to do with the marriage breaking down? He married twice more, both tv journalists, got out of banking completely!

Edit I've been reading other reviews of this book and I hadn't realised that it was over 20 years old. It reads like it could have been written about the overblown corruption of the Finance market right now. Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose, at least with Wall Street.
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1 vote Petra.Xs | Apr 2, 2013 |
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It doesn't hurt that Lewis is a fantastic writer with a particular talent for explaining the minutae of investment banking without making you want to gouge your own eyes out.
added by lampbane | editBoing Boing, Cory Doctorow (Oct 3, 2008)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0140143459, Paperback)

In fiction there was Bonfire of the Vanities; in reality, there is Liar's Poker--the fascinating insider's account of what really happens on Wall Street. This irreverent and hilarious birds-eye view of Wall Street's heyday will appeal to anyone intrigued by the allure of million dollar deals. Now in trade paper. First serial to Manhattan Inc.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:20:00 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

The author recounts his experiences on the lucrative Wall Street bond market of the 1980s, where young traders made millions quickly and easily, in a humorous account of greed and epic folly

» see all 5 descriptions

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2 editions of this book were published by W.W. Norton.

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