The incredible true story of the card-counting mathematics professor who taught the world how to beat the dealer and, as the first of the great quantitative investors, ushered in a revolution on Wall Street.
A child of the Great Depression, legendary mathematician Edward O. Thorp invented card counting, proving the seemingly impossible: that you could beat the dealer at the blackjack table. As a result he launched a gambling renaissance. His remarkable success—and mathematically unassailable method—caused such an uproar that casinos altered the rules of the game to thwart him and the legions he inspired. They barred him from their premises, even put his life in jeopardy. Nonetheless, gambling was forever changed.
Thereafter, Thorp shifted his sights to “the biggest casino in the world”: Wall Street. Devising and then deploying mathematical formulas to beat the market, Thorp ushered in the era of quantitative finance we live in today. Along the way, the so-called godfather of the quants played bridge with Warren Buffett, crossed swords with a young Rudy Giuliani, detected the Bernie Madoff scheme, and, to beat the game of roulette, invented, with Claude Shannon, the world’s first wearable computer.
Here, for the first time, Thorp tells the story of what he did, how he did it, his passions and motivations, and the curiosity that has always driven him to disregard conventional wisdom and devise game-changing solutions to seemingly insoluble problems. An intellectual thrill ride, replete with practical wisdom that can guide us all in uncertain financial waters, A Man for All Markets is an instant classic—a book that challenges its readers to think logically about a seemingly irrational world.
Praise for A Man for All Markets
“In A Man for All Markets, [Thorp] delightfully recounts his progress (if that is the word) from college teacher to gambler to hedge-fund manager. Along the way we learn important lessons about the functioning of markets and the logic of investment.”—The Wall Street Journal
“[Thorp] gives a biological summation (think Richard Feynman’s Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!) of his quest to prove the aphorism ‘the house always wins’ is flawed. . . . Illuminating for the mathematically inclined, and cautionary for would-be gamblers and day traders”—
Thorp (Beat the Dealer), a mathematician, college professor, and millionaire hedge-fund manager, is perhaps best known as the inventor of a card-counting technique and primitive wearable computer that helped him win at the gambling tables in Las Vegas and flummox casino owners in the 1960s. His latest book, part memoir and part how-to investment guide, mashes up several narratives that don't quite work together. The book is most engaging when Thorp uses his conversational style and penchant for evocative details to recount his life story, which begins with his childhood and precocious command of numbers in the 1940s and then his years as an impoverished college student in California. Along the way, Thorp complains about state laws that prohibited his gambling tactics, detects Bernie Madoff's Ponzi scheme decades before its unmasking, rails against high-frequency stock market trading, and distances himself from legal troubles in his own hedge fund operations. The book is less successful when Thorp digresses into technical explanations of quantitative investment strategies, tutorials on basic accounting principles, and investment advice. In the end, Thorp seems to run out of original ideas, though his stated objective to make readers "think differently about gambling, investments, risk, money management, wealth-building, and life" is largely achieved.