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Fortune's Formula: The Untold Story of the Scientific Betting System that Beat the Casinos
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Fortune's Formula is a fascinating study of the connections between such seemingly unrelated topics as gambling, information theory, stock investing, and applied mathematics. The story involves the stunning brainpower of men such as MIT professor Claude Shannon, who single-handedly invented information theory, the science behind the Internet and all digital media; Ed Thorpe; and John Kelly of Bell Laboratories, who developed the "Kelly criterion," a now-legendary investment strategy for maximizing growth while controlling risk. Initially, Shannon and Thorpe took Kelly's theory to Las Vegas and applied it to roulette and blackjack. Later, they took it to Wall Street and cleaned up--Shannon made a personal fortune while Thorpe created the highly successful hedge firm Princeton-Newport Partners. They both discovered that Kelly's system was particularly effective when applied to arbitrage (minute price differences that result from market inefficiencies). As Poundstone ably demonstrates, the merits of Kelly's criterion are still hotly debated today.

Poundstone has a tendency to meander in his writing, but his asides are so revealing and interesting that they add, rather than detract, from the narrative. The book also includes a cast of fascinating and colorful characters as varied as Ivan Boesky, Warren Buffet, Rudolph Giuliani, and notorious mobsters such as Bugsy Siegel and Meyer Lansky. In explaining the lasting impact of the work done by Shannon, Thorpe, and Kelly, Poundstone even explains Kelly's system for those wishing to follow his formula, offering readers both theoretical and practical lessons. Whether viewed as a how-to guide or straight scientific and financial history, Fortune's Formula proves an entertaining and illuminating analysis of "the most successful gambling system of all time." --Shawn Carkonen

"In 1956 two Bell Labs scientists discovered the scientific formula for getting rich. One was mathematician Claude Shannon, neurotic father of our digital age, whose genius is ranked with Einstein's. The other was John L. Kelly, Jr., a Texas-born, gun-toting physicist. Together they applied the science of information theory -- the basis of computers and the Internet -- to the problem of making as much money as possible, as fast as possible. Shannon and MIT mathematician Edward O. Thorp took the "Kelly formula" to the roulette and blackjack tables of Las Vegas. It worked. They realized that there was even more money to be made in the stock market, specifically in the risky trading known as arbitrage. Thorp used the Kelly system with his phenomenonally successful hedge fund Princeton-Newport Partners. Shannon became a successful investor, too, topping even Warren Buffett's rate of return and using his wealth to drop out of the scientific world. Fortune's Formula traces how the Kelly formula sparked controversy even as it made fortunes at racetracks, casinos, and trading desks. It reveals the dark side of this alluring scheme, which is founded on exploiting an insider's edge. The cast of character spans J. Edgar Hoover, Rudolph Giuliani, Michael Milken and Warren Buffett; Hollywood producers, Wall Street crooks, snarky Nobel Laureates, and the Jewish mob. Fortune's Formula explores a new and surprising side to the Shannon legacy. Based in part on Shannon's previously unseen personal records as well as interviews with both of Shannon's wives, Thorp, and many others, it is the first full-length treatment of a subject that is changing ideas about finance. Claude Shannon believed it was possible for a smart investor to beat the market - and Fortune's Formula will convince you he was right."

Customer Reviews:

  • interesting but rambling read
    the author ties together a number of disparate stories but the key takeaway from a practical perspective was: manage risk and do your homework....more info
  • Poundstone is simply always excellent
    The combination of William Poundstone covering Edward Thorpe is irresistible, and this work merits five stars alone simply for the gravitational attraction of two such luminaries in orbit with each other. But this is an excellent work deserving of five stars, as are all Poundstone's books (I have Poundstone and his "Prisoner's Dilemma" to thank for awakening in me the possibility of game theory applied to Finance).

    Poundstone is one of those rare authors, like John Derbyshire, author of "Prime Obsession," who is gifted in two cognitive hemispheres: both left brain and right brain. His prose is deft, clear, and engaging. But his explication of mathematical concepts in prose is his strength, and it is in full force in "Fortune's Formula: The Untold Story of the Scientific Betting System That Beat the Casinos and Wall Street." For anyone who has had to wade through a badly written treatise on a mathematical subject we can only beg Poundstone with the cries of the truly damaged "please write math textbooks!" such is the level of his clarity.

    But the subject matter of the intersection of mathematics, gambling, information theory, and finance itself is truly compelling: for this is the book that Poundstone was born to write. All the greats are here: Louis Bachelier, Edward Thorpe, Claude Shannon, Robert Merton, Fischer Black and Myron Scholes, and of course John Kelly. Even Michael Milken enters stage left as a boogey man/Fagin, and Thorpe's troubles with Milken only heap more scorn on Milken's deservedly reprehensible reputation. Sadly, an examination of Elwyn Berlekamp is absent from this book, as are several other minor players in the math/fin pioneering days.

    With "Fortune's Formula" Poundstone once again establishes himself as a leading writer on popular mathematics. I would be hard pressed to choose between William Poundstone and John Derbyshire who would be better to write the story of James Simons and Renaissance Technologies, but after "Fortune's Formula" I'd bet on Poundstone....more info
  • Fortune's Formula
    I bought the book expecting a typical "quant" book, but found a lot more. It reads like a spy thriller but provides really meaningful perspective on the quant movement -- both benefits and pitfalls. I'd highly recommend it....more info
  • Fortune's Formula:
    Very Good. To achieve a more defined methodology further research
    into gaming theory and money management is required....more info
  • Pseudohistory?
    If true, the book merits five stars. If not true, then the book merits hardly three stars for not being circumspect. If the latter, then the scholarship is quite poor. William Poundstone, author of excellent books on game theory, did not engage in any lateral thinking in this book. I'm skeptical of the purported existence of a "formula" that was used to play the stock market so successfully by these guys. First of all, I submit the possibility that there was no formula and that these guys were engaged in inside trading. If so, then what a clever way of avoiding scrutiny by the Securities Exchange Commission other than explaining your fortune by pointing to some formula. Like a magician employing misdirection, could it be that there was no formula, only inside trading? And if the SEC bought that story, then the inside traders could escape Securities Exchange charges and violations. And this would be the genius of Thorpe and others, not some formula. Like the Rothschilds who exploited their monopoly on carrier pigeons in pre-telecommunications England said Napoleon defeated the British at Waterloo so they could buy British bonds pennys on the dollar, or Joe Kennedy who under Roosevelt regulated securities while fleecing the stock market (an inside job) or Bill Gates who took the somebody else's operating system "BASIC" and sold it to IBM with a contract provision giving him exclusive rights to sell it to the personal user (the innovator of "BASIC" not even privy that this was going on) or Rockefeller buying off railroads to push other oil companies out of the market and avoiding taxes by putting his money in trusts, or the guys who opened King Tut's tomb and looted it and resealed it and then "rediscovered" it so the Egyptian government was robbed of much of the gold in that tomb, perhaps the "Forumla" herein is another example of what Honore' Balsac said, "Behind every great fortune is a crime."...more info
  • Excellent
    Just after reading I considered this book one of three must-read non-fiction books for any professional. After a while my emotions have settled down a little bit, but still I would consider this book really outstanding. All of us dream about becoming a billionaire and is impressed by stories of rises and falls in the business world. This book gives a quite detailed and - I hope - close to real insight into a few spectacular successes (and failures) in making money "out of nothing". Even if it is not a guide how to get rich soon, it can help adjust a strategy of any amateur or professional investor.

    Personally, I'm bewildered by the amount of details given and carefulness to point out to sources. In this respect it is like a scientific monograph, but don't be afraid - the language is far from scientific jargon and unreadability. And here we come to the only problem with this book. I know it is said in US that every formula decreases the number of readers by half. But for me this would be much better to put a formula instead of a paragraph or two of text in few important places accross the book. ...more info
  • The only trouble with this book is it's not longer
    Poundstone has unearthed so many entertaining stories and dazzling insights, it begs for a sequel. This is the best account to date of the Kelly Criterion, a simple, powerful idea for understanding risk. As far as I know, this book the only account of Kelly himself. While Shannon and Thorp have been described elsewhere, their intersection with each other and Kelly is an amazing story. Toss in some fascinating and little-known history and some well-told anecdotes and this is a book it is a joy to learn from. A little math will enhance your understanding, but it is not required....more info
  • Top notch theory, storytelling just okay
    The story lines in Fortune's Formula are strong, but the telling is somewhat disjointed. The book offers a rich tableau of venues -- Bell Labs, MIT, Nevada, Beverly Hills, Hong Kong -- but much of the material has a lightly dusted, surface-level feel, leaving this reader vaguely dissatisfied. Fortune's Formula is not a hodgepodge of anecdotes, but nor is the connecting thread especially taut. (For an example of tight storytelling woven expertly into the subject matter, check out `Complexity' by Mitchell Waldrop, `The Predictors' by Thomas Bass, or 'Moneyball' by Michael Lewis.)

    Shannon and Thorp were reticent men, and Kelly died all too young -- getting inside their heads is understandably a tall order. Perhaps this is why colorful side characters take so much of the spotlight. There is something of a gangster fixation going on; the book leads off with the story of the underground wire service, a gambler's boon steeped in organized crime. (This cycles back to Bell Labs, you see, because AT&T was involved with the wires and did a nice bookie business sotto voce.)

    The mob angle also touches blackjack pioneer Ed Thorp. Seeking financial help to test his theories in the real world, Thorp wound up in Reno with two mafia backers at his side. His source of funds was a complete accident, of course; Thorp clarifies he would not have taken `mustache money' had he known its origins. While true that Shannon's Information Theory was based on data transmission (i.e. wires), that the Kelly formula was originally inspired by gambling insights, and that Thorp had an amusing run-in with Soprano types, the wise guy focus seemed tangential. Why so much emphasis and material on Longy Zwillman, Manny Kimmel and their ilk? I suspect the heavy hand of marketing; organized crime skews interesting for Joe Reader in a way that mathematical formulas do not.

    With their own separate methods, Thorp and Shannon trounced the market averages over a period of decades. The retelling of how they did so exposes another kink in the book's implicit premise: the actual formula in Fortune's Formula is not a money-making recipe, but rather a fatality-avoidance recipe. The Kelly criterion was not truly central to Thorp's or Shannon's financial success; it merely facilitated that success via proper understanding of bet size.

    Think of it this way: In order to succeed as a trader or investor, you must practice effective money management. But effective money management guarantees nothing on its own. It is a necessary, but not sufficient, condition... ensuring survival is not the same as ensuring profits.

    Ed Thorp made a pile of money exploiting early market inefficiencies. He also had a knack for finding new inefficiencies when the old ones went away. In other words, Princeton-Newport Partners (Thorp's flagship fund) was a pioneer in statistical arbitrage. Shannon's method was even further removed from the Kelly criterion; his market-beating 28% returns came from a buy and hold portfolio more than 90% weighted towards just three stocks! He was an astute observer of technology and consumer trends, smart enough (and wise enough) to stake and hold long term positions in huge winners like Teledyne and Hewlett Packard.

    As Poundstone recounts, Claude and Betty Shannon were the type of investors who ate a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken before buying stock in it. Shannnon's returns are more an inspiration to concentrated value investors than arcane formula followers. His risk management techniques were apparently limited to taking reasonable losses when an idea didn't work out.

    In practice, the Shannon investing method can be boiled down to three truisms: "invest for the long term," "know your area of expertise," and "diversification is a hedge against ignorance." (Plus, buy Teledyne for 88 cents and Hewlett Packard for less than 2 cents, then hold to $300 and $45 respectively.)

    For all the criticism in this review, the straightforward explanation of theory is where Fortune's Formula shines. Poundstone does a superb job in distilling the essence of Information Theory and the Kelly criterion. He communicates the gist of both in a way that the non-mathematically inclined can grasp, and successfully highlights the subtle points of controversy and real-world application that make both theories so interesting.

    In regards to thinking about risk, better understanding risk, and applying risk-related concepts to trading / investing / money management, light bulbs will click on for experienced practitioners and novices alike. (Less pragmatic readers may find these explanations dry, but enlightening nonetheless.)

    Last but not least, the academic crowd, aka "the Random Walk Cosa Nostra," takes the worst of it in Fortune's Formula... and very much deservedly so. Poundstone does not have to intentionally skewer these economic leading lights, for their own words expose them as arrogant, egotistical jerks.

    For example: Paul Samuelson, the MIT godfather of neo-classical economics, chose to trash the Kelly criterion based on a minor league point of disagreement. He ferociously argued it to be a `fallacy,' though the actual objection voiced was little more than a straw man. This distinguished economic statesman apparently enjoyed belittling his opponents and treating them like simpletons; Samuelson's masterstroke was a flaming critique written entirely in one-syllable words.

    Examples starring Eugene Fama, Myron 'fools like you' Scholes and others are even more pompous, if possible. It is eye opening to get a collective picture of these Nobel laureates in action -- burning heretics at the stake on dubiously nitpicky grounds, crushing dissent by means fair or foul, and blind to their own myopic hubris all the while. These are supposed to be our wise men? The mind boggles....more info
  • Interesting review of the systems of the past
    This is a nice look into the past systems of betting. Also nicely written and gives a good understanding of the Kelly formula. Was not quite what I thought it would be but was a nice book....more info
  • adjectively and adverbly stretched introduction to the subject
    The cover says this is the "untold story" and it's no wonder why--I really wonder if William Poundstone is enjoying playing a great joke on his agent and publisher - or helping them put over a huge joke on us. The back of the book says it's an "amazing story that gives a big idea the star treatment" which I now realize meant the main points of the book could have been summed up in much less space, if only all the Homerian adjectives preceeding each name and place (and liberal scattering of adverbs describing each phone call) were eliminated. The thing you ultimately realize as you are reading what you think is going to be a great story that will clue you in to gambling and Wall Street, is that he isn't really going to tell you very much beyond what you already read in Wikipedia plus some names, places, and obscure trivia that you don't need to know. (unless you really wanted to know that his career was ended "decisively," or that he entered another person's office to borrow a book) After a while I felt like a putz for buying this stretched-out magazine article at retail, and I needed a vacation from the adrenaline I was feeling from all the hyped-up prose. Either the literary reviewers who suckered me into buying this only read the prologue or they really are that mentally challenged. Don't cry for me though, I know Amazon won't put a 1-star review at the top so I'll make my money back selling it used to the next sucker....more info
  • It takes exceptionally smart people to make truly massive blunders
    This book is a concise look at the evolution of formal investment theory, with continual contextual references to its ties to gambling and to organized crime. It also is a hilarious and insightful history of gambling from the Bernoulli's in the 1700s through the hedge fund traders of the late 1990's.

    The author devotes over 50 pages to notes and the index. This was appreciated since I wanted to look up more about so many of the anecdotes he included.

    Mr. Poundstone poignantly describes the downfall of high-flying firms such as LTCM, where the investment wizards went from the darlings of Wall Street to the dredges of the investment community in large part because they were so clever; and they started to believe they were infallible.

    One LTCM road-show presentation was held at the insurance company Conseco in Indianapolis. Andrew Chow, a Conseco derivatives trader, interrupted Scholes. "There aren't that many opportunities," Chow objected. "You can't make that kind of money in Treasury markets."
    Scholes snapped: "You're the reason - because of fools like you we can." (Page 281)

    Warren Buffett marveled at how "ten or 15 guys with an average IQ of maybe 170" could get themselves "into a position where they can lose all their money." That was much the sentiment of Daniel Bernoulli, way back in 1738, when he wrote: "A man who risks his entire fortune acts like a simpleton, however great may be the possible gain." (Page 291)

    He also points out the real world flaws in some theoretically appealing scams. The St. Petersburg Wager seems mathematically correct; yet it overlooks a vitally important constraint (pages 182-184). Another is the unfounded weight we unconsciously give to historical returns, as evidenced by his retelling of another Warren Buffett story:
    In a 1984 speech, Buffett asked his listeners to imagine that all 215 million Americans pair off and bet a dollar on the outcome of a coin toss. The one who calls the toss incorrectly is eliminated and pays his dollar to the one who was correct.
    The next day, the winners pair off and play the same game with each other, each now betting $2. Losers are eliminated and that day's winners end up with $4. The game continues with a new toss at doubled stakes each day. After twenty tosses, 215 people will be left in the game. Each will have over a million dollars.
    According to Buffett, some of these people will write books on their methods: "How I Turned a Dollar into a Million in Twenty Days Working Thirty Seconds a Morning." Some will badger ivory-tower economists who say it can't be done: "If it can't be done, why are there 215 us?" "Then some business school professor will probably be rude enough to bring up the fact that if 215 million orangutans had engaged in a similar exercise, the result would be the same - 215 egotistical orangutans with 20 straight winning flips." (Page 314)

    The author follows the lives of a few major contributors to investment theory, information theory, and betting theory: Claude Shannon, who invented Information Theory and paved the way for the digital computer age; John Kelly, who developed the formula for gains with no possibility of ruin; and Edward Thorpe, who built upon these findings and beat the roulette wheels, the blackjack tables and the investment fund managers.
    It's a fast read - only 329 pages before the notes and index. I highly recommend it!
    ...more info
    This book is a great combination of betting and trading schemes and it is written extremely well. The history part is great as well and I have recommended it numerous times to universally great response from friends....more info
  • Just be sure you know the keywords of the book: It's about the UNTOLD STORY, not FORMULA or SCIENTIFIC.
    I found it very difficult to comment on this book. I can see different people with different expectations will have very different comments.

    The name of the book should be accounted for some of the bad comments. The highlight of "Formula" and "Scientific" makes people expecting equations and theories inside. However, you can hardly find any formula, and even there're theories explained, just like most books targeting to all audiences, the explanation and equations are usually not "too accurate". The graphs are pretty good, though.

    For me, I have a degree in Computer Science, and I have experiences and researches in gambling and investment, so by looking at the content of the book, I knew I was familiar witha t least 1/2 of the content (people and theories).

    I found the Prologue is wasting my time. I started to get bored after a few chapters, especially the storytelling is not that attractive and different characters entering in a not very organized way...

    However, I did find it interesting later when things are putting together... For example, if you learned Black-Scholes formula from economics studies, you probably don't know Ed. Thorp has derived essentially the same formula in a different form. Or if you learned Kelly criterion from science or gambling, you'll probably not know the geometric mean version in economics fields, and the difference between them.

    So, as a conclusion, I'm not quite interested in the storytelling, but I'm quite impressed by the broad researches Poundstone has done. But maybe there're too many to be included in this book, it's hard to put everything together in a smooth way to make it interesting all the way to everyone.

    What I think the book will mean to different readers are:
    a) It's an excellent book for someone who have almost no knowledge (but have experience) in the theories of gambling and investment. This book will be a good eye-opening experience to you.
    b) It's a good book for putting things together for people who learned some theories from different sources. It's also quite interesting to read how the people in different fields were doing similar things and coming with similar results.
    c) For the real experts, this book should act as a review of the history, and I still believe there're at least some "untold stories" that even an investment expert will find it interesting.

    My final advice... feel free to skip some of the stories, especially the description of some characters you're not interested in. Focus on what interests you. That will make you give 1 more star to the rating....more info
  • Highly entertaining and very acessable
    Scholarly treatments of the Kelly Criterion are dry and inaccessable to non-math majors. This is a highly entertaining account of the sometimes seedy applications of a concept that ought to be taught in business school, but usually isn't....more info
  • Tedious, Tendacious, and Trite
    Clearly the main protagonists in "Fortune's Formula" were highly intelligent and head of their time. Card-counting, blackjack, arbitrage (eg. potential acquisitions, warrants, options) were all covered, and some interesting approaches to maximizing return vs. risk were addressed.

    Nonetheless the book was a trial to read - full of sideline ventures of minimal value, superficial/non-lucid explanations of complex concepts, and likely of little or no value today. (Kelley's optimum "betting level" may have prevented Long-Term Capital Management from going broke, at the cost of FAR lower early returns - however, Poundstone did not explore that possibility).

    The material could have been much better covered in the format of a broader primer on mathematical approaches to investing, and providing data on the number of such investors able to consistently beat the market, and those who go broke....more info
  • Useful and Interesting
    Very interesting to read and very useful to know. The Kelly Criterion applies to all variants of investments (gambling, stock market, horse racing, etc). This book explains the history of the Kelly Criterion and academic misunderstanding of it.

    The only problem with the book is that it did not explore the daily applications of the Kelly formula. Many readers would finish the book and ask: So how do I use this? The book also fail to explain how to adapt the Kelly concept to situations with multiple outcome states rather than only Win or Lose. Support for multiple outcome states is essential in real-life applications of Kelly Criterion [...]

    Overall, the book is great as an introduction to money management....more info
  • Any investor or gambler needs this book!
    An insightful look under the hood at the factors affecting the money making process.
    With a lot of very interesting stories, from the mob all the way to Nobel prize winners on Wall Street, it shows the latent traps that can destroy the bankroll of investors, gamblers, and poker players.

    Any investor (or gambler) needs this book or he will risk losing his bankroll! ...more info
  • Enjoyable and inspiring tale
    It might be a matter of personal taste, since I've found other reviewers with exactly the opposite opinion, but I really enjoyed the book and, given the fact that English is not my first language, it can't be possibly be written as badly as they say. Nevertheless, I found the book truly inspiring. It displays the unlikely social networks that can be build in a complex society, the risks people take, and the rewards some win. I didn't expect a course on "applied Kelly criterion" and much less the ultimate formula to give me advantage in the financial markets or other bet-like places, but a tale about Shannon, Ed. Thorp, Manny Kimmel, the boys at LTCM, etc. Those people who want a course on that should refer to anything derived from Bachelier/Markowitz. Those who like reading for reading, this is an interesting story about gambling....more info
  • The Ongoing Epic of the Kelly Criterion for Risk Management.
    "Fortune's Formula" tells the story of the Kelly Criterion -through the experiments, ideas, wins, and losses of those who have espoused it and who have derided it, at race tracks, black jack tables, sports books, and, finally, on Wall Street. The Kelly Criterion is a risk management formula published in 1956 by Bell Labs information theorist John Kelly, Jr. that dictates how much of your bankroll you should bet based on your edge divided by the odds so that you will have zero risk of ruin no matter how bad your luck is, while increasing wealth faster than any other betting system. It does not address what bets you should make, which is another matter entirely. Instead of writing a simple analysis of the Kelly Criterion, author William Poundstone brings this story alive by relating the histories of key figures who have used, promoted, or criticized the Kelly Criterion: information theorists, economists, traders, gamblers, and gangsters. Some readers may find this approach unfocused and unnecessary. But I think the personalities lend "Fortune's Formula" an epic quality and place the Kelly Criterion firmly in the context of real life, with real consequences, as opposed to the realm of abstruse theories that never leave the halls of academe.

    The men whom "Fortune's Formula" casts as protagonists are Claude Shannon, the MIT scholar who invented information science and who amassed a small fortune as a buy-and-hold investor, typically making 28% per year on a small portfolio, and Ed Thorpe, author of 1962's gambling classic "Beat the Dealer", 1967's "Beat the Market", co-founder of Princeton-Newport Partners fund (1969-1988) and founder of Ridgeline Partners (1994-2002) quant fund. Ed Thorpe's transformation from MIT egghead to black jack sharp to Wall Street wizard in an ongoing theme, as Thorpe is an immensely successful advocate of the Kelly Criterion -and he is still alive. There is unfortunately little information on John Kelly, because he died in 1965 at the age of 41. The key Kelly challenger is 1970 Nobel Laureate economist Paul Samuelson, who probably overstates his case in calling the Kelly Criterion a "complete swindle" when the point of disagreement seems to be the concept of "utility" in long-tern outcome. Whatever one thinks of Samuelson's outspoken arrogance, he is certainly entertaining. Mobster Manny Kimmel makes an appearance, as do traders Ivan Boesky, Michael Milken, and John Meriwether, as well as numerous information theorists.

    William Poundstone obviously has a point of view. He is an advocate of the Kelly Criterion, believing that it produces better results than any other betting system over the long haul while withstanding even the most unlikely confluences of catastrophe that have a way of manifesting themselves periodically. He doesn't support efficient market hypothesis. He thinks people can, and have, made money consistently on the stock market. -But that you need a darned good method of managing risk to do it, a better method than Value at Risk reports. "Fortune's Formula"'s fascination is not only in its history of the Kelly Criterion, but in the realization that a risk management formula has so many seemingly disparate applications. As Poundstone says, "The idea pops up in the strangest places."...more info
  • Looking for the secret? Here it is
    I read this book mostly for the information on blackjack. Stories about card counters and betting systems fascinate me probably because I can't do it myself. What I got out of it was so much more - the information on investing was like a mastercard commercial - PRICELESS.

    Using math and statistics to play the market is not new. So if you are looking for new information then this isn't for you. BUT if you are looking for people who actually used their own formulas then this is for you. It is simply awesome. Buffett is even mentioned in here as being someone who uses the Kelly criteria.

    It's a good read, easy to digest. Made my vacation worthwhile.
    ...more info
  • Takes a while for everything to come together, but well worth continuing with
    This book gives a very good overview of the Kelly betting system for deciding what proportion of your 'pot' should be staked on a bet with given odds/return. Whilst the first part of the book seems illogical, jumping from one story to another, it maintains it's pace until all parts are brought together. An attempt is made at presenting both sides of the arguement for and against the Kelly system, although the book is very clearly biased in favour....more info
  • OK, but not great
    Having just finished Poundstone's book on Gaming the Vote, I was hoping for a book equally as interesting. Although this book was worth reading, and there are a few aspects from it that I will put into practice, I did not walk away wanting to quote it on a regular basis like I did Gaming the Vote.

    It gives an interesting historical overview of various scientists involved with gambling and the stock market, and it reviews the concepts involved. These parts were interesting, but truthfully not fascinating.

    The sections about Murder Inc, Boesky, Millken, and the junk bond collapse were much more interesting.

    In short, it is an interesting book and worth reading, but there are many other books I'd read first......more info