It’s long been my assertion that people who consistently make tens of thousands of dollars a month playing online poker probably have the discipline and instincts to make hundreds of thousands as traders of stocks, commodity, currency—whichever is the best fit for their skills and temperament. This piece in the LA Times bears out my hunch:
Chris Fargis thought his big job interview was over. But when the partners at Wall Street upstart Toro Trading finished with their questions, they broke out a deck of cards and a green-felt card table. Mind playing a few hands of poker?
It was a final test, and Fargis was relieved. The 30-year-old never went to business school or even took a finance class. But he knew poker. He had made a living playing the game online for six years from his Manhattan apartment, betting on up to eight hands at a time.
Within a few days, Fargis—with no Wall Street experience—was offered a position trading stock options, a job that entails making multimillion-dollar gambles. His poker skills sealed the deal.
“If someone’s been successful at poker then there’s a good chance they could be successful in this business,” said Toro partner Danon Robinson. “If you have no interest, that’s almost a red flag. . . . It’s almost the equivalent of not reading the Wall Street Journal.”
In seeking more analytical, math-oriented candidates with no white-shoe connections to banking clans or previous Street experience, I was reminded of the Turtle trading experiment, as documented in The Way of the Turtle. From the book’s Amazon description:
“We’re going to raise traders just like they raise turtles in Singapore.”
So trading guru Richard Dennis reportedly said to his long-time friend William Eckhardt nearly 25 years ago. What started as a bet about whether great traders were born or made became a legendary trading experiment that, until now, has never been told in its entirety.
Way of the Turtle reveals, for the first time, the reasons for the success of the secretive trading system used by the group known as the “Turtles.” Top-earning Turtle Curtis Faith lays bare the entire experiment, explaining how it was possible for Dennis and Eckhardt to recruit 23 ordinary people from all walks of life and train them to be extraordinary traders in just two weeks.
They managed to recruit a certified geek: Michael Carr, who, before joining the team, made a significant mark in the history of geek culture as rules editor of the earlier Dungeons & Dragons books:
Q. How did you become a Turtle?
A. I started with TSR when there were only a few employees. In the ensuing years, the company went through a spectacular growth phase, which culminated with over three hundred people on the payroll. The company hit hard times and made drastic cutbacks in order to survive. I lost my job along with two hundred other workers. It was around this time that I picked up a copy of the Wall Street Journal. Ironically, that was the same day that Richard Dennis ran his ad seeking trading trainees.
TurtleTrader.com, “Michael Carr: Turtle Trader, from Dennis Camp”
He’s the same Mike Carr who penned the introductions to the classic three 1st-edition AD&D hardbacks. And by coincidence, at the bottom of that interview page, I found a link to an interview with poker pro, chess master, and one of the principals behind online poker site Full Tilt Poker, Howard Lederer. Full circle.
Day trading. Poker. Roleplaying. Chess. All activities that engage the classic geek: the person who becomes absorbed in the minutiae of a hobby or activity, who enters a flow state with its rules and data, merging their creative urges and competitive drive with the zeal of those few who have recognized and embraced their true calling.
They make inspired game masters, successful securities traders . . . and fuckin’ fearsome card players.
PS. I found this story in the 5/16/10 issue of Mike Allen’s Playbook at POLITICO.