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The Poker Face of Wall Street by Aaron Brown

Release date: 27th July, 2007
Publisher: John Wiley & Sons

List Price: £11.99
Our Price: £8.39
You Save: £3.6 (30%)
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Against a background of financial turmoil such as we're currently experiencing, stock market traders often talk in terms of limiting risk, turning a steady profit and keeping their heads down. It's a not dissimilar approach for poker players, but Aaron Brown, a Morgan Stanley executive director and poker enthusiast who specialises in quantitative finance, says the secret to winning is to embrace risk, not avoid it, which is why The Poker Face of Wall Street is such an absorbing read.

Brown maintains that gambling lies at the heart of economic institutions and his book is a unique, thought-provoking guide for poker players as he analyses the risk-management techniques he learned on trading floors at banks like Citigroup and JP Morgan. He makes a case for applying specific poker strategies to investing and he endeavours to prove his theories with real examples.

According to Brown, poker actually helped build the US, for as Americans pushed West in the 19th century, poker games allocated (or re-distributed) scarce resources in frontier towns, leaving winners with enough cash to start businesses in places that lacked banks. In some instances, winning poker players became a town's de facto bank.

This tradition survived into the 20th century as billionaires-to-be Bill Gates, H.L. Hunt, John Kluge and Carl Icahn got their first stakes in poker games. Kirk Kerkorian funded his first company, Los Angeles Air Service, with poker winnings. Hunt bet everything he had in a poker game and won his first oil well. Capital flowed from the luck of the draw and the skill of the bluffer.

Bluffing is misunderstood by most players, Brown writes. You should bluff only with your weakest hands, which are bound to lose anyway, he says. If you make a habit of this, your opponents will think you're bluffing when you have four aces. They'll stay in the game and get creamed.

Central to his thesis is that those who avoid risk at all costs tend to lose, both at poker and in life. This is by no means a poker textbook, but much of what Brown writes (well) about is not only relevant but absolutely compelling stuff.


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