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Liar's Poker: Rising through the Wreckage on Wall Street

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Overview

In this shrewd and wickedly funny book, Michael Lewis describes an astonishing era and his own rake's progress 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.

With the eye and ear of a born storyteller, Michael Lewis shows us how things really worked on Wall Street. In the Salomon training program a roomful of aspirants is stunned speechless by the vitriolic profanity of the Human Piranha; out on the trading floor, bond traders throw telephones at the heads of underlings and Salomon chairman Gutfreund challenges his chief trader to a hand of liar's poker for one million dollars; around the world in London, Tokyo, and New York, bright young men like Michael Lewis, connected by telephones and computer terminals, swap gross jokes and find retail buyers for the staggering debt of individual companies or whole countries.

The bond traders, wearing greed and ambition and badges of honor, might well have swaggered straight from the pages of Bonfire of the Vanities. But for all thier outrageous behavior, they were in fact presiding over enormous changes in the world economy. Lewis's job, simply described, was to transfer money, in the form of bonds, from those outside America who saved to those inside America who consumed. In doing so, he generated tens of millions of dollars for Salomon Brothers, and earned for himself a ringside seat on the greatest financial spectacle of the decade: the leveraging of America.

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.

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Editorial Reviews

Victor Mallet - London Review of Books
“Lewis has a gift for the rapid portrait. Unless you find his flippant one-liners irritating, it is a pleasure to be guided around the jungle of bond markets by his reminiscences and trenchant asides. . . . Apart from the belly-laughs, one of the triumphs of Liar's Poker is that it makes the financial complexities of investment banking and the markets accessible to the layman. . . . Everything from yields to selling short is painlessly clarified in the course of the narrative.”
National Review
“Lewis takes the reader through his schoolboy's progress as trainee and geek in the trading room, to high-powered swashbuckler. The author has a puckish appreciation for the comic. Yet he also has the knack of explaining precisely how complex deals really work. He provides the most readable explanation I've seen anywhere of the origin within Salomon Brothers of the mortgage-backed securities market....It is good history, and a good story.”
Library Journal
As described by Lewis, liar's poker is a game played in idle moments by workers on Wall Street, the objective of which is to reward trickery and deceit. With this as a metaphor, Lewis describes his four years with the Wall Street firm Salomon Brothers, from his bizarre hiring through the training program to his years as a successful bond trader. Lewis illustrates how economic decisions made at the national level changed securities markets and made bonds the most lucrative game on the Street. His description of the firm's personalities and of the events from 1984 through the crash of October 1987 are vivid and memorable. Readers of Tom Wolfe's The Bonfire of the Vanities ( LJ 11/15/87) are likely to enjoy this personal memoir. BOMC and Fortune Book Club selection.-- Joseph Barth, U.S. Military Acad . Lib., West Point, N.Y.
People
“Often profane, always hilarious, right on the mark.”
Fortune
“So memorable and alive . . . one of those rare works that encapsulate and define an era.”
People
“Often profane, always hilarious, right on the mark.”
Tom Wolfe
“The funniest book on Wall Street I’ve ever read.”
People Magazine
“Often profane, always hilarious, right on the mark.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393027501
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 10/28/1989
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 264,150
  • Product dimensions: 6.50 (w) x 9.60 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Michael  Lewis
Michael Lewis is the bestselling author of Coach, Moneyball, and The New New Thing, among other books. He lives in Berkeley, California, with his wife, Tabitha Soren, and their two daughters

Biography

Twenty-four year-old Princeton graduate Michael Lewis had recently received his master's degree from the London School of Economics when Salomon Brothers hired him as a bond salesman in 1985. He moved to New York for training and witnessed firsthand the cutthroat, scruple-free culture that was Wall Street in the 1980s. Several months later, armed only with what he'd learned in training, Lewis returned to London and spent the next three years dispensing investment advice to Salomon's well-heeled clientele. He earned hundreds of thousands of dollars and survived a 1987 hostile takeover attempt at the firm. Nonetheless, he grew disillusioned with his job and left Salomon to write an account of his experiences in the industry. Published in 1989, Liar's Poker remains one of the best written and most perceptive chronicles of investment banking and the appalling excesses of an era.

Since then, Lewis has found great success as a financial journalist and bestselling author. His nonfiction ranges over a variety of topics, including U.S./Japanese business relations (Pacific Rift), the 1996 presidential campaign (Trail Fever), Silicon Valley (The New New Thing), and the Internet boom (Next: The Future Just Happened). He investigated the economics of professional sports in Moneyball (2003) and The Blind Side (2006); and, in 2008, he edited Panic, an anthology of essays about the major financial crises of 1990s and early "oughts."

Good To Know

Michael Lewis attended Isidore Newman School in his native New Orleans, LA -- a private college prep school that counts among its more distinguished alumni historian Walter Isaacson, children's book author Mo Willems, singer Harry Connick, Jr., and famous pro-football siblings Peyton and Eli Manning.
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    1. Date of Birth:
      October 15, 1960
    2. Place of Birth:
      New Orleans, LA
    1. Education:
      Princeton University, B.A. in Art History, 1982; London School of Economics, 1985

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 191 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(79)

4 Star

(63)

3 Star

(31)

2 Star

(6)

1 Star

(12)

Your Rating:

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 194 Customer Reviews
  • Posted August 28, 2010

    Mildly entertaining -- But Enlightening

    The Bang for your Buck is in the last 60 pages; the rest is vanity.

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 13, 2010

    Amazing read

    Michael Lewis does a great job the bring the experience of a Bond Trader in wall street to its reader. The book goes into good detail about the events that unfolded at Salomon Brothers during his time there, and gives you a whole new perspective on the industry. Definitely worth reading

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 18, 2011

    This might be my favorite ebook

    A classic! Lewis takes the reader through all the ironic twists of being on Wall Street in the '80s.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 10, 2011

    Glad I read it.

    I had to read this book for extra credit for my history class in college. To be honest, I didn't want to, but I had to and I'm glad I did. This was an enjoyable read, although the chapters were a bit long in my opinion. I recommend it!

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 15, 2011

    foundation for finance

    great read even for beginners. hard to quantify greed in this world but this comes close. great intro for novices. i wish i read it sooner

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 17, 2011

    absorbing insight to 80s finance world

    as a finance major this provides a wonderful jump back into the 1980s at Salomon Bros...i read this after reading The Big Short but I will definitely go back and reread it again with a better understanding of Lewis' style and the mortgage bond market...a must read for any student in business...will be looking to purchase more books by Lewis...he has a unique style to put you into the atmosphere of the story

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 16, 2009

    Not a very serious take on the subject, but entertaining

    I've read this book twice; once when it came out about twenty years ago, and again a few weeks ago. The difference twenty years of living makes is immense. As a young man, this writer's voice did not bother me, but at 43, I found him irritating in the extreme. The book is a decent insider's look at a time in America when stockbrokers were flying high, and for that, this book remains interesting, though I much prefer the excellent "Den of thieves".

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 12, 2004

    Read this book!

    This book is well written and keeps you gripped well into the night. Liar's Poker was so good that I have decided to become an investment banker, so help me God.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 3, 2014

    Loved It

    This book is so hilarious and gives a birds eye view of investment banking. A potentionally snoozer of a subject had me laughing at how audacious the powers that be eere in the book. Great read

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 19, 2012

    Bulbasaurs

    20 P$

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 30, 2012

    Perfect

    As advertised

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 5, 2011

    Best book ever

    Loved it

    0 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 19, 2010

    great book

    this book by Micheal Lewis is follows a young intern all the way through Saloman Brothers on his way to millions, and his losing it. wether it is a speech with the bad kids in the back and the nerdy girl sitting front and center, or Micheal up and coming in London sellling some at&t stock to an angry German it is very discriptive. as the book begins you learn what liars poker is a game of wit and instinct. you learn of John Gutfriend the CEO of solamon a crazy man that will run around cutting off peoples tie's then just giving them $200 to buy a new one. it shows how snobby it can get on the Forty-first floor and that it was every intern's nightmare to get stuck with equites in Dallas. I have wanted to be a stock trader but this book has shown me where the real fun is, in Bond salesman. in the end it shows the demise of the company as the own rules they helped design come back to bite them in the butt. as other companies begin to buy up Solamon, it like many other companies back in the 80's fell to the great companies of today. ryan b.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 24, 2010

    One of the best accounts of wall street I have ever read. Amazingly written, could not put it down. Michael Lewis made complex concepts easy to understand and his character analysis was unreal.

    MUST READ!!!

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 29, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Good read

    interesting to read, learned about the way economy worked in those times, helps to understand how a "strong" market can crash.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 27, 2003

    Liar¿s Poker: A Must Read for the Wall Street Fanatic

    The story of a young man in the right place and time, telling his life as a trainee working to be a very profitable bonds trader in the 1980's. The novel is perfect for the biggest enthusiast, to someone just beginning to be interested in the market. Lewis¿s emphasis on detail keeps you glued to the pages while he tells of the incredibly hectic life of a trader, and the childish man you must be to be one. The life at Solomon Bothers Trading was one of hell for a trainee and Lewis shows this brilliantly through his numerous anecdotes that will make you laugh hysterically but get you more intrigued as to what will happen next. This is one you don¿t want to put down.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 27, 2003

    The Best Book Written About Wall Street

    This first-hand account of the craziness of the late 1980's on Wall Street generally, and at Salomon Brothers specifically, is both illuminating, as well as entertaining. During the duldrums of second year in law school, my good friend and classmate suggested that I take a weekend and read something both entertaining, as well as educational. He was very correct. This book is so well written and undeniably engaging, that it can be read over the course of a weekend. The book is one of my favorites, and I have read it and re-read it probably 4 or 5 times!!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 21, 2001

    The Best Book on the Securities Industry

    I have read this book at least three times, and still flip through various sections on occasion. Lewis tells about the flaws of the securities business in a humorous manner. My favorite part of the book is the presentation by the 'Human Piranha'. If they ever made a movie version of Liar's Poker, Joe Pesci would be perfect for that part!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 19, 2001

    A must-read for students headed to Wall Street

    'Caveat Emptor', 'Eat or be eaten',were the rules of the bond trading world at Salomon Brothers as well as Wall Street at the pinnacle of 1980s- the greed decade. After reading this for the first time as a 16 year old high school student, Lewis' masterpiece didn't turn me away from Wall Street, it made me more interested. While reading the book, I found myself clued in as I was glued to it's pages. Lewis is not only a brilliant storyteller and salesman, he explains to the layman and young student how the rigged game of trading really works. An absolute eye opening must-read for those pursuing Wall Street careers. I've read it a at least a dozen times.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 6, 2000

    A Classic!

    An insider's look at the inside of an investor banking firm, with no holds barred. I enjoyed the descriptions of the characters particulary The Human Piranha, who sounds like Joe Pesci, Alexander the boy wonder trader, and Lou Ranieri who rose from the mailroom to the head of mortgage trading. Well written and great use of humor!

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