Justin’s #15 – Liar’s Poker, Michael Lewis, 320 pages

Since reading Michael Lewis’, “The Big Short,” I’ve been intrigued by his writing style and the world of investments and Wall Street. He mentions Liar’s Poker in The Big Short, and I couldn’t help pick up this book.

Liar’s is about Michael Lewis’ own journey into investment banking. He began as an art history major before transitioning into a job at Salomon Brothers which is an investment bank. He described sitting through the introductory course that the firm gave to new traders. A type of intern. After he got accepted by the firm, he transitioned into a new trader, called a “geek.” The transition from “geek” to being called “Michael” required he make good trades and be successful in the business. Then, the top echelon of traders were called “big swinging dick” which Lewis became shortly after he was called Michael. Eventually, Salomon Brothers was bought out by Citigroup and Lewis left.

I still don’t understand a lot of the subtleties of investment banking and Wall Street. But something that seems to be a corollary between books of this type are the topic of greed. The Bible explicitly states that the love of money is the root of all evils. You can see a pattern time and time again of the mistakes investment bankers make by trying to outplay the system and who ultimately gets burned is the shareholders; not the traders. Another theme that runs through this book is what Lewis states at the beginning of The Big Short. It’s wasn’t to help people get into investment banking (which is how a lot of people took it when they first read it), it was to demonstrate that you should do what you want to do in life. Investment banking is a life full of long hours and make it or break it trades. It must be nerve wracking, playing with millions and sometimes billions of dollars. I know I would never want to do that. So I like this theme because successful is in the eye of the beholder: for some, it’s about making a lot of money and never having want with anything. Some it’s having a two car garage with a wife and two kids and a boat. I think success is much different than material possessions, and I think that’s an important lesson.

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