Tim O'Hearn's Reviews > Fortune's Formula: The Untold Story of the Scientific Betting System That Beat the Casinos and Wall Street

Fortune's Formula by William Poundstone
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Sep 17, 2016

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bookshelves: 52-books-in-2016, finance-non-fiction

Fortune's Formula was sitting on my shelf for a long time because I couldn't formulate a prediction regarding how (and how well) my (numerous) competing expectations for source material could be condensed or extrapolated into a book this size. Would it be boring and drawn out, would it be introducing brand new ideas and characters until the bitter end, or would the subject matter go ambitiously beyond the already-massive scope of the title?

For the uninitiated reader, all of my fears are realized. It's an amalgamation of many different stories piled into a narrative that tips the scale at dubiously long-winded. What is the book about? I couldn't answer that question using a paragraph, never mind a sentence. An action-packed lead-in gives way to lengthy descriptions, biographical facts, and figures which feels like a bait and switch. Gambling takes a back seat to Organized Crime which takes a back seat to Information Theory which takes a back seat to Wall Street which takes a back seat to more sophisticated gambling which... The story is a never-ending loop of some combination of these topics and it can be infuriating.

I enjoyed this work, both as a partial refresher on some of the best stories about gambling and investing and for the achievement that is William Poundstone's original research, arrangement, and storytelling. Approaching the end, it's important you've paid attention to some of the minute details surrounding different trading strategies and economic theories, otherwise you'll fail to see the significance of what he's talking about. Established (original) themes and sturdily-built characters feel contrived when bookended with rehashes of well-known people and events.

While one party may argue it's the keystone of Wall Street non-fiction, the other would have a point in saying an archway is only structurally sound if a keystone is set last, wedged into the apex.
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Reading Progress

September 11, 2016 – Started Reading
September 17, 2016 – Shelved
September 17, 2016 – Finished Reading
October 3, 2016 – Shelved as: 52-books-in-2016
November 6, 2017 – Shelved as: finance-non-fiction

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