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Liar's Poker

4.14  ·  Rating Details ·  47,709 Ratings  ·  1,509 Reviews
The time was the 1980s. The place was Wall Street. The game was called Liar’s Poker.

Michael Lewis was fresh out of Princeton and the London School of Economics when he landed a job at Salomon Brothers, one of Wall Street’s premier investment firms. During the next three years, Lewis rose from callow trainee to bond salesman, raking in millions for the firm and cashing in
Paperback, 320 pages
Published March 15th 2010 by W. W. Norton & Company (first published 1989)
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Petra X
Mar 04, 2016 Petra X rated it really liked it
Update On Tuesday, March 1, 2016, I got a call, my banker (view spoiler) resigned from Morgan Stanley. He said they wanted to put the commission and charges clients pay up too much and that it has become Corruption Central. He says he'll phone me when he finds a new company. Does anything change?

My son who is in his last year at law school has a job already with Goldman Sachs. Is he going to becom
Rajat Ubhaykar
Oct 31, 2012 Rajat Ubhaykar rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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.

Jul 25, 2014 Ruben rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 25, 2007 Steven rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Riku Sayuj
Aug 31, 2011 Riku Sayuj rated it really liked it  ·  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.
Jan 08, 2012 Mike rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: economics
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
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
Aug 18, 2014 Kirk rated it it was ok
Shelves: nonfiction
Probably the least interesting thing by Michael Lewis that I've read. Billed as an expose of Wall Street greed, I found it more to be a story of incompetent management and political infighting by conceited executives who found themselves successful by being in the right place at the right time, but think themselves as geniuses.

Some of this reminded me a lot of my father's stories of the politics at his former law practice. Why anyone would want to work in a place with so much backstabbing and v
Walter Spence
May 30, 2016 Walter Spence rated it it was amazing
In 2007, super investor Warren Buffett of Berkshire Hathaway made a bet with some of the people over at the Protege Partners hedge fund. He wagered that over a period of ten years the S&P 500 (a passive index) would outperform a group of five hedge funds* handpicked by Protege, with the loser donating one million dollars to the charity of the winner's choice.

(*Hedge Fund: A limited partnership of investors that uses high risk methods, such as investing with borrowed money, in hopes of realiz
Aug 12, 2012 Brian rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 10, 2014 Beth rated it really liked it
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.
Nitesh Kanthaliya
Apr 20, 2016 Nitesh Kanthaliya rated it really liked it
A great book which shows first hand experience of a trainee when he enters the bond market when it was at its peak. It showcases the care (pun intended) that Salomon Brothers and like took of their clients. A person with a portfolio of less than 100M is a scapegoat and guinea pig for the trainee's On the Job training. The fat paychecks that the bond traders and bond salesmen draw for duping the clients basis the fact that they know a little more than the clients is quite hilarious. However, in d ...more
Aug 11, 2015 Ahinch rated it it was amazing
I found this worn down bestseller in the investing for dummies section at the library. I read it in a few days and I have a short attention span so it's a good read. This could be easily made into a movie and the author has written books such as Blind Side and Moneyball which were turned into movies.

This is all about the life of a Wall Street bond salesman in a big firm called Salomon Brothers, the firm basically, in the 1980s. It mixes biography with the rise and fall of a company. The company
Mike Moore
May 31, 2015 Mike Moore rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone
Recommended to Mike by: It's amazing to me that this wasn't required reading in my education. A gross oversight
For people who want to understand the peculiar failure modes of capitalism that have been illustrated by the bubbles, crashes, and bailouts of the past decade, Liar's Poker is required reading. Not that it provides solutions to the problems (far from it), but it illustrates the problem space perhaps better than any other book I know.

It does this by means of a sympathetic, yet introspective, portrayal of the vicious, base-natured villainy that is Wall Street Corporate culture. There is little roo
Joshua Stein
Aug 12, 2014 Joshua Stein rated it liked it
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
Apr 23, 2012 Deepak rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.

Nov 08, 2009 Wesley rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Frank Stein
Jun 11, 2011 Frank Stein rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 24, 2011 Flavio rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Arjun Mishra
Aug 12, 2011 Arjun Mishra rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: economics
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
Dec 04, 2008 Matt rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Preston Kutney
Sep 23, 2015 Preston Kutney rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: business
As always, a compulsively readable book from Michael Lewis. I knew that this would further indulge my distrust and resentment of Wall St. and it did just that. Also this was eerily prophetic with its explanation of the inception of mortgage backed securities and judgement of unsustainable finance strategies. Probably one a very few finance books that will make you laugh.
Tony Segreto
May 20, 2016 Tony Segreto rated it it was amazing
Michael Lewis' story of the debaucherous 1980's Investment Banking scene is fun and crazy and pretty funny. I'm not too sure why this book gets so much praise, but I am assuming that when the book came out, it shed light on a very mysterious scene that not many other forms of media had covered. Now we have the Wall Street world popularized by a ton of different outlets, and the events in this book seem less extraordinary.

The book provides several little finance gems here and there, and also gave
Jun 20, 2014 Brian rated it really liked it
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).
Jul 10, 2014 Shari rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Michael Lewis can spin a tale like no one else. Fascinating look at Wall Street and the Bond Market from the insight out. Shocking, not surprising ... Greed trumps almost all other motives.
Michael Toth
Sep 05, 2015 Michael Toth rated it it was amazing
It's rare to find a book that is both informative and also so funny that you actually laugh out loud, but Liar's Poker was that book for me
May 22, 2016 Tim rated it really liked it
Shelves: to-reread
An incredible read. It chronicles the boom and bust of the once powerful Salomon Brothers through an insider's perspective. Even though financial derivatives are a complicated class of products, the author was able to guide through and make sense of them. The greed among 80s investment bankers especially bond traders is viscerally pictured and its collision with moral standards and logical sense is enormous.

The book focuses on the few core characters including the author himself and lets the sto
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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.
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“Those who know don't tell and those who tell don't know.” 101 likes
“The men on the trading floor may not have been to school, but they have Ph.D.’s in man’s ignorance.” 52 likes
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