Liar's Poker: Rising Through the Wreckage on Wall Street
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Product Description

It was wonderful to be young and working on Wall Street in the 1980s: never before had so many twenty-four-year-olds made so much money in so little time. After you learned the trick of it, all you had to do was pick up the phone and the money poured into your lap. In this shrewd and wickedly funny book, Michael Lewis describes an astonishing era and his own rake's progess through a powerful investment bank. From an unlikely beginning (art history at Princeton) he rose in two short years from Salomon Brothers trainee to Geek (the lowest form of life on the trading floor) to Big Swinging Dick, the most dangerous beast in the jungle, a bond salesman who could turn over millions of dollars worth of doubtful bonds with just one call.

Customer Reviews:

  • Kept my interest.
    I read this because I was required to for (MBA) school. I read the entire book over two weekends; a difficult task for me because of poor reading speed and poor attention span. I generally do not like to read and find most of what I read a painful bore and highly unbeneficial. This book was an exception. This book gives us an interesting insight into Michael Lewis' real world experience, something we cannot get a real feel for in traditional textbooks. If it is not already, this book should be required reading for all MBA programs. Thank you, Mr. Lewis, for sharing your story....more info
  • Crisis in subprime mortgages? Just a little bit of history repeating...
    Excellent book. Easy reading. One more proof that we never learn from past mistakes. Perhaps subprime mortgage lenders have not red this thing. Or perhaps they did it very seriously. Find out for yourself. It is a good investment of your time and money. After this book, continue with "Barbarians at the Gate: The Fall of RJR Nabisco ". Have fun! ...more info
  • Con men in suits
    The book gave me insight to the world of the Investment Banker. It is funny and very interesting. It made me realize Enron is not an isolated case....more info
  • Wonderful, how could you not like it?
    This is a great book. I mean, everyone else says so, so they can't be wrong. Yes, I want a job on wall street....more info
  • Liars Poker
    Good book, just not the cult classic I heard about. If you're not into stocks, bonds, the market, etc it's not for you. I think the author was very humble abous his own success, but in the end I think the book itself is overrated....more info
  • One Man's Experiences in the Financial Industry
    Michael Lewis details his short career on Wall Street working with Salmon Brokers as a trader (working both in the US and Europe). Lewis provides a description of the rise and fall of the mortgage bond market at Salomon Brothers as well his experience with other derivative markets. Included in the book are several outlandish incidents that went on behind the scenes at Salomon brothers. Many of the undertakings by the high net worth investment professionals will leave you taken aback as their actions show an often significant lack of any real viable market knowledge.

    Beyond some revelations revealing the sophomoric attitudes of the investment professionals and a peripheral description of the financial markets, Liar's Poker offers little insight that one would not acquire by working as a temp at any major brokerage firm. Expecting to find a perceptive analysis on the financial markets, I was disappointed only to find a marginal account of the industry and some commentary on the author's personal experiences. Lewis is not a bad writer, as he proved to be witty at times, but the material becomes monotonous rather quickly.
    ...more info
  • Pretty lame
    I thought this would be more interesting. I still haven't finished the book and I bought it over 6 months ago. It's just dry. If you've ever worked on the floor of an actual exchange this is like kissing your sister. I have a totally different view of trading in the 80's and institutional trading isn't it...more info
  • Funny in Parts
    When I bought the book, I expected it to be a funny narration of the wall street life in 80s. And the first 70-80 pages kept me quite entertained. Well written and funny ! Its the second half of the book which becomes more rhetorical with a dull narration of the events and developments on the Wall street. Perhaps my expectations from the book were unrealistic. I would recommend Monkey Business if someone wants to have a real laugh at the wall street world....more info
  • Gets Better With Every Read
    I read this book again for the fifth or sixth time. It continues to be a great read. I highly recommend it for anyone in finance. Thoroughly accessible and thoroughly enjoyable....more info
  • Exciting, entertaining and very informative
    Exciting, entertaining and very informative. No matter what books you typically read you will enjoy this one....more info
  • Liar's Mortgage
    Michael Lewis' Liar's Poker is a must read for anyone trying to understand the 2008 crisis in mortgage lending and home ownership. In fact, a new edition of the book should be published with a forward by Ben Bernake or Hank Paulson. The autobiography describes a mid-1980's newbie to Wall Street and his induction into the fraternity of mortgage traders at Salomon Brothers and junk bond traders at Drexel. This book rises above a rite of passage story because of the financial chaos which happened during the next three decades.

    The 41st trading floor of Salomon Brothers is where millions of dollars exchange hands in minutes. There is a blue collar culture of practical jokes, profanity, Mexican food and pizza. The characters might have come right out of Damon Runyon or Animal House. The main difference between the interns, the traders and the clerks is neither their demeanor nor education but their wealth. In contrast to other books which tell us about the best and the brightest, this book describes ordinary people with excess body fat, perspiration, greed and wealth.

    As more homeowners face foreclosure and the US dollar loses value, it is not clear what message to derive from this book. Were it not for these failures of economic policy the book would join other interesting stories about the rich and privileged of Wall Street. But because of this failure of oversight, the book takes us from humor to cynicism and from a sense of national pride to a feeling of national shame.

    Is there a ratio of capitalistic reward to risk which is unconscionable in a democratic society? Can this behavior be limited or controlled by financial transparency, tax code, money supply and credit leverage? How do we avoid these consequences of the creation and destruction of capital without moving down the path of socialism? Can we ever put to rest the saying that behind every great fortune is a great crime?
    ...more info
  • Poor Management, Greed, Excess ... AND Politics!
    LIAR's POKER by Michael Lewis is an interesting exploration of the excesses of investment banking, trading in the 1980s. The author's many anecdotes throughout the book are often fairly amusing, particularly his description of mortgage traders as well as the students who sat in the back row of his Salomon Brothers training class. More importantly, however, the book covers many important themes. I believe the book actually has something to teach the reader about mismanagement and the consequences of office politics. Furthermore, the nature of the broker is exposed insofar as his relationship to his employer and his client are concerned. That is, the broker will ultimately serve his employer at the expense of his client when necessary.


    I recommend this book not only for amusement and insight on the go-go 1980s trading years, but also for the reader to pick-up on some of the themes of management, the impact of office politics, and the history of investment banking and trading. ...more info
  • Peeling a Banana
    I am only half the way through the book and I have learned more about trading than the past 20 years. Like everyone I believed in the orderliness of the market. This book gives you great insight into the large trading companies like Salomon Brothers and the practices of the mortgage market. You will walk away with your head shaking. Incredible book.

    Marty Lenow...more info
  • JH
    OUTSTANDING!! This is the single best book I've ever read for learning the basics of life in a Wall St. investment bank. Very accessible and humorous, yet informative as well. ...more info
  • Insightful look into Salomon Brothers in the 1980s
    Michael Lewis does an excellent job describing the internal history of Salomon Brothers in the 1980s. He writes an easy-to-read narrative that is not only a pleasure to read, but is also a sarcastic and detailed examination of how business is done on Wall Street. While Lewis writes specifically about Salomon Brothers, it is not difficult to apply his various criticisms toward other firms.

    I felt the book was split implicitly into three parts. First, Lewis describes his first impressions of Salomon Brothers, the training program, and his initial experiences getting the job. Second, he steps back from his autobiographical narrative and explains the bigger picture. He tells the reader of the people who ran and built the firm in New York, the crazy things that happened on the trading floor, and how the mortgage trading department grew from a one-man team to a behemoth that would dominate Wall Street. Finally, he returns to his autobiography and talks of his experiences as a bond salesman in the London office. He outlines the fateful events of late 1987 and finally describes his last day at Salomon in 1988.

    In the third part, Lewis also gives a brief history of Michael Milken and his rise to power at Drexel Burnham. Lewis gives the reader a lesson on how junk bonds became popular (Milken essentially made the market for junk bonds, just as Lewie Ranieri did the same for mortgage bonds). He describes how the demand for junk bonds greatly exceeded the supply until a new use for junk bonds was found - financing leveraged buy-outs by corporate raiders.

    This book is a very enjoyable read. It is not as vengeful as Monkey Business (also a great read, but very different), but more descriptive and historical in nature. I was a bit reminded of Barbarians at the Gate when reading it. I felt that I got a great overview of Salomon Brothers in the 80s and of the people who made the firm great, especially Lewie Ranieri. Lewis also does an excellent job describing various finance concepts that he discusses throughout the book. He keeps things simple but he doesn't leave out details that would leave me hanging. That was very thoughtful of him, in my opinion.

    In conclusion, I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in the corporate culture on Wall Street in the 1980s. It's a quick, easy, and enjoyable read.

    Pros:
    + great historical overview of Salomon Brothers in the 80s
    + sharp, insightful, and satirical - an excellent look at Wall Street corporate culture
    + lots of interesting detail on people who built markets in the 80s
    + good definitions and descriptions of several financial concepts
    + fun to read!

    Cons:
    - a relatively small window into the history of the firm
    - ends in 1988; would be great to see another edition wrapping up Salomon's story...more info
  • A warning for the uninitiated
    This book should be required reading for all wanna be I-bankers. The author very convincingly describes the inner workings of a major financial institution. From the outside, the public only sees the expensive suits and tall glass buildings and are suitably impressed by the knowledge and skills of those who works inside. But the author takes us behind the doors to show frighteningly how the lifeblood of the world is controlled by a bunch of 25 year olds who have little idea of the magnitude of their actions....more info
  • Funny,entertaining and educational. What else can you as for?
    Michael Lewis is an excellent author. In Liar's Poker, he describes his life at Salomon Brothers in the 1980's as a bond salesman. It is not a mere biography which is why this book deserves my 5 star rating. Lewis does an outstanding job in 3 different areas:

    First, he manages to make his story funny and entertaining. Sure, he may have exagerrated in some parts and selctively wrote about the more entertaining characters at Salomon, but that does not take away from the story of investment banking in those days.

    Second, he gives the reader an honest and fair story of young investment bankers. He not only tells us his story but also dabbles in the stories of some of his classmates. Any young business school or college graduate interested in investment banking would benefit greatly from his book.

    Third, he researched other areas of investment banking - not just the area where he was assigned. He has a big section on mortgage bonds which is extremely relevant to today's markets given the downturn in the housing market and subprime mortgage problems. Also discusses junk bonds and equities. It may sound dull in my review, but the way he writes about them is a lot more interesting which is why he is a bestseller author and I am merely an Amazon reviewer.

    I highly recommend Liar's Poker to those interested in investment banking, Wall Street or investing in general. If you enjoyed Liar's Poker, then consider Stewart's Den of Thieves. ...more info
  • The real story.
    This is the real story about wall street firms and the way they look at their clients. Beware that you may not like the way they look at you. It is a good wake up call for those who think their broker is always looking out for their best interests. Very entertaining with great stories. You won't want to put it down! ...more info
  • Informative and entertaining
    Great read and good inside look at Wall Street in the 1980s. Haivng just finished Barbarians at the Gate (which I also highly recommend), I was searching for a similar read. An attorney for the RJR Special Committee recommended Liar's Poker as a great view inside. He was dead on....more info
  • good story
    It is a lot fun to read this book. We can find some roots of today's subprime crisis in the wild 1980's as told by Michael Lewis....more info
  • Fabulous book--strongly recommend!
    Brilliant! I recommend this book for anyone who wants to work on Wall Street. It's a brilliant account of what many on the street are like. Though it was written years ago...nothing has changed.

    Michael Lewis does a brilliant job of bringing the reader onto the floor with the traders and playing poker with that dollar. ...more info
  • Hello Suckers!
    Liar's Poker is a bluffing game played by the stock and bond traders at Salomon Brothers. There is series of arbitrary numbers -- the serial numbers on dollar bills -- that the associates make bids on. No one has any idea what the other players are holding, so the actual numbers are less important than the traders' abilities to bluff each other. The game is how they learn and practice putting one over on each other.

    The game is also the title and central metaphor for Michael Lewis' 1989 memoir about becoming a bond trader at Salomon Brothers. His book pops up on a lot of best-of-business writing lists. It may seem odd to be reading it twenty years on, but if you really want to understand how the seeds of our current economic crisis were sown, you should read it.

    Salomon Brothers basically invented the "mortgage backed security" that are one of the major causes of our economic problems.

    What is revealing and relevant about Lewis' book is the dissection of the structure of the brokerage house and the attitudes that dominate it. The company, trader, and salesman's best interest are often at odds with those of their customers. The basic principle of trading is this: bluff the customer into placing big bets on stocks and bonds and take a commission on the sale. If the bet "blows up" the customer, well, "Hey, it's the market. It is unpredictable. Who knew?" (But the company and trader got their piece of the action.) If the bet produces a big return for the customer, then the customer has more money to use to make bigger bets with the now "proven" financial adviser.

    In the lexicon of Salomon Brothers, "blowing up a customer" is when the customer loses their entire investment. It is commonly known in the industry that associates fresh from the training program will "blow up" most of their customers for about six months. Salomon Brothers only allows these green traders or "geeks" access to small investors to prevent damage to their big institutional investors, the organizations that will make bets in the tens of millions to billion of dollars.

    The working class and middle class salary men who have bought into the common wisdom that the market always goes up over time and will beat inflation get fed to the "geeks" who are the most likely to blow them up. The trader/salesman gets his percentage. The company books the business. The investor takes all the risk and loss.

    Lewis' own description of the practice: "In need of a euphemism for what we did with other people's money, we called it arbitrage, which was just plain obfuscation. Arbitrage means 'trading risklessly for profit.' Our investors always took risk; high-wire act would have been more accurate than arbitrage. In spite of the responsibility implied by my job, I was ignorant and malleable when I advised my first customers. I was an amateur pharmacologist, prescribing drugs without a license. The people who suffered as a result were, of course, my customers."

    Lewis extends the metaphor. The brokerage house is basically a casino. The traders and salesmen are dealers. The markets, like the odds of winning a game of chance, are vaguely knowable, but entirely unpredictable. The investors are gamblers.

    The difference, though, between Vegas and Wall Street is that people who go to Vegas know that they are gambling. People who take their money to Wall Street have been told that they are investing.

    Lewis, to his credit, quits his job.

    If you find yourself a little flummoxed by all of the financial reporting about our current economic meltdown, read Liar's Poker. It will help you make sense of it all....more info
  • Could not put the book down!
    A very well written account of a young bond trader and his firm, Salmon Brothers. I literally could not put the book down once I started reading it. One point to reflect upon from the book is the story of Ranieri, the man who conceived and sold the idea of mortgage backed securities, now the source of grave anxiety and concern in the financial market as of December, 2007. ...more info
  • I feel out numbered by young naive, economic ignoramuses.
    I am an experienced,well educated, retired, 63 year old entrpreuneur that is making a 20% return in this down market. I read a lot, but I have learned to read the 5 star and the 1 star reviews before wasting my most valuable asset, my precious time, and then buying a book like this. Look at the reviews if you are like me you will find that Michael(they'll never call him Mike) Lewis thinks this is a game not his future. After graduating from Princeton as an Art Major, ourl ittle micheal spent 2 years at Saloom Brother's as a flunky. Never mind, I too was a flunky for a small investment banker at his age while attending Univ. of Washington but then again I couldn't draw so I studied Samualson in Economics 101 and know why oil went from $147 to $42 in the last 6 months. Hint it has something to do with how prices are set at the margin. The lower reviewers called this author's opinion drival and a waste of time and these reviewers seem older, like me. But the book got the highest star rating I have seen, so now I feel out numbered by the young naive, economic ignoramuses who are a few years out of a liberal collage, who will miss the opportunity to see oil go back up soon and are head for a life of financial mediocracy and jealousy.
    If describes you buy this book.

    Meanwhile I am still looking for a worthwhile,rigorous read about the challenges for the Obama nation because in this market you can monatize real knowledge a sthe ignorant herds fear to double downat life's poker table.
    I have two beautiful daughters who are also young and naive, but I hope they never date little michael. I have supported them for 25 year's and while they are working hard making it on there own, no one needs an anchor. Of course again maybe Michael will be the next Rembrandt.
    ...more info
  • Eccentricities of Wall Street...
    An entertaining look into the life of a Salomon Brothers bond trader in the 1980s. The book offers a cursive overview of the financial innovations during that period, but the real contribution is in examination of the culture and the personalities of the Wall Street traders. Not without some embellishment, Michael Lewis does a great job of communicating the eccentricities and absurdities of the traders - 'the big swinging dicks'. At the very least, 'Liar's Poker' is an entertaining read, at best, an insightful look at what (and who) turns the wheels of our financial institutions....more info
  • They made the mortgage backed securities
    Michael Lewis' story of investment banking in the 1980s deserves it classic status.

    He writes about the investment bank Salomon Brothers from 1980 to 1987. The first years of Lewis' (nonfictional) story the bank does tremendously well, growing to the largest investment bank on Wall Street.

    This fantastic growth is due mostly to the bond trading department. The new monetary policy paradigm, introduced by Fed chairman Paul Volcker, means interest rates vary wildly. That opens the door to trading opportunities.

    In 1979 Lew Ranieri is made head of the mortgage operations of Salomon. He hardly makes any money before the Congress gives tax incentives to the savings and loans, if they sell their mortgages, in 1981. The development of the mortgage securities market is vividly described, and very interesting to read today.

    From 1985, Salomon gets into trouble. The cunning Michael Milken makes junk bonds the new fad, and steals customers and traders away from Salomon.

    Michael Lewis, the author, quits in 1988, and that ends the book. Salomon goes on until it is acquired by Travelers and then Citigroup in 1998.

    Liar's Poker is easy and fun to read, despite being accurate and rather specific on many issues of bond trading. I would recommend it to anyone interested in the development of modern finance. It made me understand the crisis of 2009 better....more info
  • a classic
    this book is a must read if you are getting into the financial industry along with "when genius failed" and others.
    ...more info
  • Highly entertaining for those interested in Wall Street
    The book is a good read and entertaining for those interested in Wall Street. This book should be required for anyone thinking of getting a job on the Street. Some stories may be hard to understand for readers not familiar with finance terminology....more info
  • Disappointed
    After reading the reviews on Amazon, I was excited when this book finally arrived. However, after reading 3/4 of the book, I felt the reviews were highly misleading. Lewis is by no means a highly gifted writer. This book is sloppy and disorganized. He throws around dates and names in random pages, which leads the reader out of the loop. Most of the names could have been left out and weren't important to the story. A brief synopsis of the story goes like this "Yah, we made a lot of money in the 1980s at Salomon Brothers". And for the a whole synopsis, reiterate that 100 times in a 100 different ways. I'm so disappointed with this book....more info
  • Stranger than Fiction
    Much of what Lewis' writes about is true. Particularly as a trainee investment banker you are thrown in and expected to know how financial markets work. I have been a banker for 20 years and can only now confidently say I know half of what I am talking about. Mind you most clients I talk to really don't have a clue - another anecdote that Lewis brings to life. This is a great read for those with insight or interest in the Wall Street set, fast paced and so funny because its true. On top of it all, it offers great insight into an interesting part of financial history, much of which has parallels to the 2007 Credit Crisis - happy reading...more info