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Liar's Poker

(Liar's Poker #1)

4.15  ·  Rating details ·  81,584 ratings  ·  2,249 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, 310 pages
Published March 15th 2010 by W. W. Norton Company (first published 1989)
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Average rating 4.15  · 
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 ·  81,584 ratings  ·  2,249 reviews

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Apr 15, 2012 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
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.

Rajat Ubhaykar
Jan 02, 2011 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
Walter Spence
May 19, 2016 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 realizing
Jan 26, 2008 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 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 lexicon th
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
Lisa Dunckley
Mar 21, 2017 rated it liked it
While this is probably Michael Lewis's most famous book, it is not my favorite. Lewis is always an engaging writer, but maybe because this is a recounting of a period of his life, and not an investigation into an exciting mystery or a study of a socialogical phenomenon, it's just not as fascinating as his other works.

The book is interesting, as it follows Lewis's journey from college interviews to working at top investment firm Salomon Brothers. The whole investment banking world is incredibly
Aug 18, 2014 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
May 22, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shelves: economics, nonfiction
When a single game of Liar's Poker is played with a million dollars at stake at a workplace, just what, or whom, in the world are you dealing with? The most money-hungry industry, probably. Wall Street, ding, ding!

Money is a nebulous thing, and when you start dealing in the millions, perhaps billions, over a telephone, what happens to you and your soul? When Savings & Loans managers sell out for a chance to play in the big leagues, the world slides into Pottersville. Liar's Poker makes you feel
Riku Sayuj
Aug 31, 2011 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 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
Bertrand Jost
Dec 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
In a previous review, I talked about The Bonfire of the Vanities and about the mastery of Tom Wolfe in crafting his characters, the story line and the various social types he described there. There was one aspect of that book that I did not talk much about and yet which was prevalent in my attraction to the story: not only it is one of the iconic stories that symbolizes Wall Street in the 1980s but it is also taking place at a very specific time when Wall Street was actually part of History. Ind ...more
Rohit Enghakat
Sep 02, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: business
This is the author's narrative of his experience working at Salomon Brothers, at one time the biggest investment bank on Wall Street and probably the world. The book is a sarcastic look into the world of high finance with wit and humor laced in the narrative. Investment banks are generally known as the hotbed of high net worth employees who sell products (equities, debt, bonds and mortgages here) to gullible, often clueless, investors at huge profits to satisfy their ever-increasing appetite for ...more
Mike Moore
May 30, 2015 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
Shelves: business
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
Jul 13, 2012 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
Nov 04, 2009 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
Preston Kutney
Sep 17, 2012 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.
Dec 24, 2011 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
Aug 11, 2015 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
Peter (Pete) Mcloughlin
Couldn't get into this one. Too much testosterone and greed to really be of interest. I wouldn't want to be in these people's company and find little of interest in their subculture, unfortunately, it is a very powerful group.
Mar 21, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012
Thank Jeebus and Gutfreund this early book was successful because it is hard to imagine experiencing this last bear market without the funny, clear narrative genius that is Michael Lewis.
Indumugi C
Liar's Poker is that one book everyone possibly has heard of as one of the most funniest books on finance. It is true that I did pick it up for a small introduction to finance. What I read however was an extraordinary account of the corporate world from how they hire to how they make sudden decisions to fire the same employees. The intervening events of trading, how they deal with clients, etc. feature too. Contrary to what I thought, the central focus is not Wall Street but Salamon Inc.

This boo
Frank Stein
Jun 09, 2011 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
Apr 16, 2012 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.

Jun 05, 2014 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.
Sophie Nguyen
May 31, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction-2019
Well, I went through hell reading this book. But I was partly to blame because I put too much trust in the author hoping he will make matters easier to understand but clearly he didn't think it necessary. Anw, it still expanded my narrow mind a little bit. The dry humor, wisdom as well as humility of the author breathes a refreshing air into such a corrupt industry. Will try to return to this in the future!
Dec 21, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
1980 Wall Street.

Michael Lewis's personal account of working at the Wall Street. Wild ride of working at Solomon Brothers, making and looking millions. Since then there are some changes are made, but are they enough?
Text Addict
The last line is probably the funniest/most ironic line I've read all year.
Joseph Brisson
Jun 04, 2020 rated it really liked it
Fresh off the trading floor of the Salomon Brothers London office in 1989, Michael Lewis offers an insider's account of life on Wall Street in his first novel. Lewis masterfully details how the mortgage bond boom on the 41st floor of Salomon Brothers in the early 80s propelled the firm to world dominance. This is a tale of greed, however, as he provides an interesting perspective on management's inability to see minds on the floor as the firm's greatest asset, ultimately leading to its fall from ...more
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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.

Other books in the series

Liar's Poker (2 books)
  • The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine

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