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Liar's Poker

4.12 of 5 stars 4.12  ·  rating details  ·  34,101 ratings  ·  1,190 reviews
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, ...more
Paperback, 256 pages
Published October 1st 1990 by Penguin Books (first published 1989)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Petra X
Liar's Poker is the ultra high-stakes game played in Wall Street companies by the brokers with the obscenely high commissions they get from trading in the investment market.

What results is either extreme wealth and satisfaction, probably quite a few of these people are psychopaths, guilt and a change in career, or American Psycho, a rather fun fictional book on the ultimate psycho on Wall Street.

The book is highly recommended for lots of open-mouthed, geez, people act like that, say things like
...more
Lobstergirl
21 years after publication, Liar's Poker feels both relevant and ancient. Relevant because it seems the Big Swinging Dicks of Wall Street are ever with us; ancient because of references to things like WATS lines and the lionizing of Salomon Brothers trader John Meriwether, whose Long-Term Capital Management would spectacularly implode in 1998, and Michael Milken, who apparently had not yet been indicted when the book went to press but got a 10-year prison sentence for securities violations.

Lewis
...more
Rajat Ubhaykar
Atlas Shrugged for the philistine. It's subtle glorification of the greedy, underneath a veneer of hilarious sarcasm and grudging respect is the stuff financial Bibles are made of.

An interesting slice of financial history is captured succinctly, more precisely the development of Collaterized Mortgage Obligations in the 80's which also has direct relevance to the recent U.S housing crisis.

If you wish to get everything you can out of this book, get your Finance 101 straight. It'll be a lot more fu
...more
Ruben
This book surprised me. I read and enjoyed Lewis' Moneyball a while back, and thought I was getting another journalistic account, this time of a crazy moment in corporate culture. Instead, it's very much a memoir of that world. And I didn't care for it at first, since the group of people he writes about are so spectacularly awful. He brings a certain world of investment banking trainees home to you, and I wanted nothing to do with it. If that was the whole book, I don't think I could take it. So ...more
Steven
pp 83 is a discussion of S&L's failure in the US.
pp 136 is the best explanation of CMO's I've ever read.

Great read. Initially loaned to me by a coworker. I went out and bought it shortly thereafter.

A former art student winds up becoming a bond salesman for Salomon Brothers in the mid 1980's. He sees a lot, and describes it vividly. Chernobyl. The October Crash of 1987. Gutfreund and Meriwether quibbling over how much to bet in one hand of the title game.

He introduces some terms to the lexico
...more
Riku Sayuj
Aug 31, 2011 Riku Sayuj rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Riku by: Puneet Raheja
First book of this type I truly enjoyed. Thank you Lewis for opening up a new field of book to explore.
Mike
I'm a little torn by this book. It's well written, it's funny in places, some of Michael Lewis' observations are very astute and I'm sure that on some level this is an excellent commentary on the downfall of a once great company. Lewis was a trainee bond trader at Salomon Brothers when that firm was the most profitable on Wall St. He did very well out of his time there, and his analysis both here and in another of his works, The Big Short, pinpoints several of the problems that society has, or s ...more
Kate
Why am I languishing here, making approximately $0 dollars as a librarian? Why was I not a Wall Street investment banker?! These guys were having all the fun. In his introduction to the Big Short, Lewis writes that he was dismayed people took Liar's Poker not as a cautionary tale, but as a how-to manual for their careers. But I can totally understand why! He makes the trading floor sound like the place to be, the absolute center of the universe.

He's also got a real knack for explaining somethin
...more
Brian
To write a non-fictional portrayal of your life during your 20s is not an easy task. To do this while still in your 20s, to have it be your first book, and to have the story revolve around bond trading / Wall Street - and not have the book be as dry as it sounds - seems an almost cruel undertaking. But Lewis managed to do this. Despite what would seem to be the worst idea for a first book, Lewis keeps the reader interested and turning pages, even with a cast of execrable people that are only mad ...more
Deepak
Ironically (you will understand why once you read the book), this was one of the suggested readings when I was interning with Goldman Sachs.

The book captures the experiences of Michael Lewis as a Salomon bond salesman. But what it includes in more excruciating detail is "the" truth about the glorified Wall Street (using this phrase in a rather generic sense to include markets in other locations as well), and the rise and fall of one of its inhabitants, Salomon Brothers, in the 1970s and 80s.

To
...more
Flavio
Liar's Poker is a book about the days that Michael Lewis spent at Solomon Brothers as a Bond broker during the bond boom that took place starting in the 80's. The book is really entertaining and at the same time very informative. The book can be grouped into a few sections, that have very distinct focuses. The first is about the rise to prominence of Louie Ranieri to the head of the mortgage bond trading desk and his subsequent fall. The second is about Lewis' own experience in the London office ...more
Franco Da Costa Gomez
Really, really wished I had read this book about a year and a half ago when I was about to start my job-search in college. The first few chapters describe what I went through perfectly, I was nodding along the whole way. That didn't last too long though as I definitely got lost in all the jargon/technical speak/employee names later on in the book and ended up rushing to finish it. Good read though, and I learned a lot:

I do not want to work in finance and never should have wanted to work in finan
...more
Joshua Stein
Lewis is a phenomenal writer, and it's important to keep in mind that this is his first book. The writing is strong, but not technically as well-developed as his later work (Blindside and Moneyball) but it has something that is often a feature of "first works" in a writer's career. It is deeply personal, and Lewis's Liar's Poker has more of Michael Lewis in it than the other books by a fairly substantial margin.

I really enjoy the book, and think that the personal elements of the storytelling are
...more
Michele
A true must-read for anyone interested in the world of finance. I confess that after reading this I still don't fully understand how some of these bonds work, but Lewis paints a picture that is as clear as possible and his portraits of the characters involved in these 1980-era schemes at Salomon Brothers are utterly compelling. He tells the story from his perspective as a new, but ultimately successful insider who made the transition from trainee geek to Big Swinging Dick, before deciding that h ...more
Satyaki Mitra
This book provides a fascinating account of Wall Street of the 1980s.
The book starts off with the author(Michael Lewis), recounting how he began his career as a bond salesman for Salomon Brothers, then goes on to narrate about the paradigm shift in finance that took place in the 1970s, how the terrains of the financial markets underwent a sea change with the rise of the Bond market, and how Salomon Brothers pioneered financial innovation in the field of bond trading, by securitizing mortgages an
...more
S.
it's 12:16am (or 0016 for you overly scientific types) on Monday, 24 March 2014, and it would be nice if this guesthouse public room would be emptied. but, what can you do? some computer nerd French engineer in his twenties is here with his geeky habits as is African boy toy, with whom I have talked politics for about an hour (mostly the problems associated with differential rights / obligations EU/island-country), and I guess in some sense I could just say


well if you want better reviews, why do
...more
Katrina
Interesting Wall St memoir - Lewis worked for an investment bank in the late '70s through to beyond the '87 crash.

The anecdotes from actual time in the business keep this a surprisingly fun read. Lewis is quite funny and cutting about his fellow traders, but never completely absolves himself either, e.g:
It was striking how little control we had of events, particularly in view of how assiduously we cultivated the appearance of being in charge by smoking big cigars and saying fuck all the time.

He
...more
Wesley
Liar's Poker tells the story of Michael Lewis and his career on Wall Street during the eighties. In those days, it was almost like the wild west with people throwing money around. Then, the loss of massive sums of money (one hundred million and over) was something that was laughable and easily disregarded. Now, losing that amount of money would yield either a huge embarassment or an instantaeneous firing. Througout the book, Michael Lewis describes to macho-nature of the financial world by using ...more
Adam
Liar's Poker

It's hard not to compare this book to the Big Short. For one thing that book was my introduction to Michael Lewis, and my introduction to reading popular nonfiction about the financial industry. Unfortunately, the book doesn't stand up to the comparison well.

There are two major problems with this book. First and foremost, the events discussed are coming up on 30 years old. It's hard
to get too excited about financial misdeeds that have been so thoroughly overtaken by events.* Second
...more
Frank Stein
A brilliant and funny memoir of life on Wall Street in the 1980s. Michael Lewis shows exactly how craven and self-serving his firm, Salomon Brothers, had become by the time of his arrival in 1985. Previously a backwater, Jewish-led, bond trading firm, Salomon rode the wave of leverage in the Reagan era to become the most profitable investment bank in the world. Yet part of that success came from keeping good deals on its own books and passing bad bets to its customers. Lewis describes his first ...more
Arjun Mishra
I was hoping for a better book from Michael Lewis. I read The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine before reading this, so my expectations might have been biased, but I was hoping for something that did more than illuminate some scandalous activity. It was minor league in that it attempted to illustrate some central characters in Solomon Brothers. Lewis does much better in making his characters palpable in The Big Short.

He touched upon this a couple times, but he never entirely pounced upon th
...more
Kristine
I didn't expect to be so entertained, even to the point of chuckling out loud, while reading this book: Liar's Poker:Rising Through the Wreckage of Wall Street.

The topic is hardly humorous, but Michael Lewis displays a flair for character description, clear communication, and generally all-round good writing in this memoir-style inside view into the culture and goings on of Salomon Brothers during the 1980s.


Author Lewis tells the larger story of a firm and an era using his own experiences and
...more
Tung
Before Michael Lewis became famous for Moneyball and the Blind Side, he kicked off his nonfiction career with this book – a somewhat autobiographical description of his time as a bond trader for the then Wall Street King of bond-trading, Solomon Brothers. I say “somewhat autobiographical” only because the book is far less about him and far more about Solomon Brothers and the wild west of bond trading during the 1980s. Lewis describes the personalities of Solomon’s upper management, and how their ...more
Nicholas
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Matt
This was a fascinating book to be reading in the midst of the biggest financial crisis of the past 75 years. Liar's Poker records the author's experience as a bonds trader for Solomon Brothers, at the height of the 80's trading explosion - an accurate, and frightening, account of the ludicrous nature of the whole industry. Perhaps the most shocking aspect of the book is the attitude of the traders: to make money at any cost, regardless of the consequences. In this world, it was perfectly accepta ...more
Bill

I first read this book 20+ years ago, while employed as a bond salesman working alongside some of the people named in these pages. I'm happy to report that this book is still good.

Upon recent rereading I was struck by Lewis' stated goal to demystify Wall Street—"to describe and explain the events and the attitudes that characterized the era" and "to tell the story [rather] than to go on living the story"—to submit it to what he contends is well-deserved myth-busting.

But, ironically, his narrat
...more
Jorge Caballero
Liar’s Poker is Michael Lewis’ memoir of his days as a bond salesman on Wallstreet at Salomon Brothers, time that coincides with some very eventful moments for both the firm and Wallstreet. Lewis’ superbly chronicles those events with a hefty dose of sly humor and amusing anecdotes.

The book highlights some of the inherent conflicts of interest that plague broker-investor relationships, and the inner workings of the financial system. Throughout the book, Lewis provides brilliantly simple explanat
...more
Beth
I think that Michael Lewis is a superb writer. He takes a complex topic, such as mortgage-backed securities, and explains them so that your every(wo)man can understand them. He is also a great observer of human character, and he writes about people with great aplomb. I feel as if I personally know his characters. While the subject matter of investment banking in the 1980s is filled with blind greed, leaving the reader disgusted, Lewis manages to make this book a fabulous read.
Mitchell
Well I'd much prefer to find an author who's later books were better than his earlier ones. As the first book Michael Lewis wrote, this being the worst one I've read could be considered a good sign. But I'm disappointed. And surprised. I guess I shouldn't be all that surprised - if this was a better book than it would have been a bigger part of The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine - it certainly made me understand that book a little more in retrospect.

So why wasn't this one as good. It was
...more
Brian
A revealing look into the bond market in the crazy 80's. Truly an eye-opening book not only about what seems to be a boring topic (bond trading), but also about what happens to a corporate culture where maximizing the amount of money made is the number 1 priority above all others (even client relationships).
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Then and Now 6 108 Nov 05, 2014 08:22AM  
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Michael Lewis, the best-selling author of Liar’s Poker, The Money Culture, The New New Thing, Moneyball, The Blind Side, Panic, Home Game, The Big Short, and Boomerang, among other works, lives in Berkeley, California, with his wife and three children.

His latest book, Flash Boys, was published on March 31, 2014.
More about Michael Lewis...
Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt Boomerang: Travels in the New Third World

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“Those who know don't tell and those who tell don't know.” 78 likes
“The men on the trading floor may not have been to school, but they have Ph.D.’s in man’s ignorance.” 40 likes
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