Book review: A Man for All Markets

Lots o' words on the page

How many coffee chats?

This is a measure of how valuable this book was vs a single coffee chat with the author. For this book, it'd be around 100-200. It's packed with facts, anecdotes, explanations of how things work, and examples. I was actually thankful I engaged with this info over a book as opposed to a coffee chat, since I can go back and re-read to truly understand and internalize before moving on.

You'll benefit from reading this book if...

  • You're interested in investing. Ed Thorp started as an academic, he also had a time when he wasn't an expert from the beginning. In fact, the finance industry was no where near as complex and developed as today. You'll get to see what his path from not knowing anything about investing --> being one of the top experts in the field. I found the whole story weirdly relatable.
  • You're curious how some well known names in wall street became bazillionaires. Ed Thorp meets along the way the people who shaped Morgan Stanley, D.E. Shaw, and Long- Term Capital Management. He knew them personally when they were individuals with raw ideas.
  • You enjoy hitting the casino casually... or professionally. This book shows you what the Vegas and Reno scenes were like as card counting became well know. (Spoiler: they were shady as HELL.)
  • You are pretty risk averse and want to learn how to hedge things. This is sort of why I picked up this book. Calculated hedging was super central to all of Ed Thorp's strategies in casinos and investing.
  • You think wall street is evil. You'll come out thinking you're still right, but you'll get an inside scoop on how exactly hedge funds are evil and what to watch out for.
  • You are the parent of a child who might be a genius. Ed Thorp was.... different in his childhood. If you have a super gifted child yourself and you want to sort of comprehend what they're going through and how to motivate them, you can read the first few chapters of this book.

Why you should read anything from this author

  • Ed Thorp is really smart. He claims he was gifted in his childhood. He's got a math PhD and was a professor at UCI. He founded one of the first quantitative hedge funds in America. He basically invented card counting and made it viral.
  • From what I can tell, he has strong family values, ethics, and morals. His wife is venerated in his book. He also made some life decisions to spend time with family as opposed to selling his soul to work. He made decisions in his hedge fund days to treat his limited partners like he wanted to be treated, rather than coming up with shady ways to keep more %. He seems to not tolerate injustice and petty politics.
  • His life experiences are super interesting to read about. He's done some fun pranks in his childhood. Reading about his card counting saga was like watching a movie. He was connected with some famous folks (e.g., Warren Buffet) so you'll sort of feel like getting an "inside scoop" of what it's like to have a personal connection to those people.

Why you'd want to take the author with a gain of salt

  • It's somewhat outdated information. He's been the most active during 60s-early 2000s.
  • I got a feeling he doesn't talk about his failures as much or as objectively. That's sort of a red flag to me. I often like to listen to people who have a more modest and introspective (sort of like the "Level 5 leaders" described in Jim Collins' book "Good to Great"). Or someone who can be super impartial with themselves or take themselves not very seriously.

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