Edward Thorp: Beating The Market and Casinos With Mathematics

please, welcome to the stage
Ron, bacardi ceo of context capital partner and john culbertson cio of context capital partners
Thank you everyone for being here and welcome to our biggest summit yet?
part of this event
John and i are very excited to interview, someone who really is a legend in the industry
it’s considered to be the father of quantitative trading and
We’re, gonna talk tonight a lot, about a. Book that he’s recently published, which is in essence an?
Autobiography titled a man for all markets
Many of you know he also plays a mean hand at poker i’m sorry out of a
Blackjack so before before, we get into the interview, we just want to show? A quick video?
now let’s meet our third team of challengers
What is your name please my name is edward thorpe?
My, name is edward thorpe, my name is edward thorpe
Alright, no please take out the next copy if you will and follow along. I edward thorpe i’m an
Associate professor of mathematics i am especially interested in the laws of probability in gambling games i applied, some theories of my
Own and the findings of a computer to the game of blackjack or twenty-one and came up with a preliminary report
Which i delivered before a scientific meeting the results were astonishing
300 copies of my report, was snapped up, by the scientists and i was besieged by people?
Who, wanted to help me profit from my, system – big-time gamblers actually, did backed me in an experiment at
the blackjack table in two hours of play, we broke the bank twice and won
$17,000 the book i wrote expounding my
System is called beat the dealer a winning strategy for the game of 21 it is currently the most requested volume in
The las vegas public library
Signed edward thor
And here we bring you three gentlemen?
Panel all claiming to be edward thor bish you heard author of what is called the most popular book and in las vegas public
library, we’ll start with taking cash peggy thank you and number two who’s gone
Scarn yeah, do you, mean scar knee, well i don’t know. How, to pronounce it i read the book but i wrote a
Book, about gambling, uh number three in blackjack he tells you to stand on a certain number do you know
What number that, is i’m sorry i don’t know? You know number one?
Who, tells you this tyranny if when he wasn’t in this book, about blackjack he says that you should you can
Even stand on as low. A number as a certain number i don’t recall do you know number two no i know
Oh, what is insurance number three, what is insurance in blackjack, when you take insurance
well that, means that if the dealer has an, ace
And you can see the ace then you can put out. A little bit to protect. Your bet against him helping a. Blackjack
Orton and number two you broke the bank twice in two hours of play with other times, where you tried it and failed
There were other times, we broke the bank other times
we did
Did you lose all your money sometimes no never
Number one how much money would you need to go into this would you have to have a certain reserve behind you
Well i started with $10,000 with, my to gambling friends i only dipped into
$1,300 i
See number number three, where these are gambling friends are they still walking free in the face
Do you know them by name i call them x and y in my book
Well having done this extraordinary thing i want to know, why, you’re here, why aren’t you working
number one
We had a man on this show once who had a computer for i think it was blackjack do you know. His name
Hmm i think i know, who you mean?
but i don’t believe you use the same type of computers as i used i used a digital computer i think
Now number two how, long did it take you to work this out the entire theory yeah
Close to a, year number three i’m asking this question seriously, why, don’t you just do it all the time
I’m not very popular out there
Oh number one where did you play tom poston
Number one they wouldn’t think of keeping you out of las vegas would they are they sure would
What is that what do you mean they, don’t want you to be comfortable las vegas gambling is a business i know but it’s
Also, supposedly in a free society
There’s nothing, free under the sun you start winning you’re in trouble, well uh
Thank you number two number two, what is a bank, what determines a bank
Determines the bank it’s up to the casino, they will have this much or
That’s it there we pause on an ads and we stop and go right to the if and but as?
we please mark our ballots that ones please without, any change of course and without any consultation just vote now for number one
Number two or number three
All ballast marks nope please mark, we haven’t much time
There it all right tom for who i voted for number three and i’ll tell you if
We better straighten this out right now because i don’t think that vegas or any other place that’s a public
Place like that is allowed to bar people from their
Calls just, because they
Win maybe i’m wrong but i think it’s number three hey
I voted for number two i don’t think that they could keep you out of say the flamingo if you wanted to bet
But and also nervously?
Insurances when you have two aces and you doubled them up in bet it it’s not that other insurance that you said at least to
Where i played if that was in shirani
If i think it was the nice, we had a chance to hear number one’s a story about how
To, after him, before they come from
Number three cuz, they weren’t after him aboard a, well but you know
i joined
Kitties, well i think peggy, and plumber, naive i’m sure they, want to keep him out of las vegas
My voted for number two
About that book and if you made up that book i’m gonna tell you no good
I voted for number two pilots even they split, that’s more the way you do is rule two economy
Was gone please go now for the truth and find out who’s right and who’s wrong as you learn?
Which one of these gentlemen actually is the author of the most popular book in las vegas library will the rail dr.
Edward thorpe please stand up
Let’s welcome to the stage dr. Edward forages
So i thought it was interesting that
We were talking a minute ago i found out. That was not ed’s only, game show
Who actually appeared on a few others correct
Which others were you on?
I’ve got a secret
Okay, what’s my line, and steve allen?
great, well
I’m interested to hear how
You, go from college professor to game show, contestant to hedge fund manager so that’s what we’re here to talk about
Okay, so but i want to rewind? A little bit and and really go back to your childhood you talk a lot in the book
About your childhood and one of the things that i found really interesting, was from a
Young, age your ability to really focus on whatever it is you were you were doing can you talk a, little bit about that
It was kind of odd when i was?
very young i
didn’t talk until i was about three and
people worried, about, me my parents particularly there were trying to get me to say something and then one day i was sitting in
Montgomery ward a big department store in chicago and
Were friends of my mother, who were along and they kept, asking me questions as they always, did hoping i would
Say something so a man got off the elevator and they said
Where’s he going and i said something rather like
Going to buy a shirt and they were really startled and then a couple ladies got off they said, where are they
Going and i said, oh?
they’re, going to the bathroom to do peepee and
Yeah, all three of the blushed a beet red and i was very surprised? By that and it left quite an impression upon me
Then i started talking and my father
Decided that this kid might be able to learn things and he started trying to teach
Me whatever he could so in rapid succession there, was reading and math and i seemed to gobble up whatever. He showed me
But this was during
Not long after, we moved to southern california
the war broke out and my parents were in
Defense centers industries working
Night and day they were working
One of the swing shift one of them was working on the graveyard shift so i didn’t see much of them
And i was pretty much on my, own and?
So i was going to a school that was academically
Rather backward it was 31 out of 32 in the la city school system
So i ended up with, my interest in science having nowhere to go unless i taught myself so i did that and
That was one of the things that helped me?
Focus on things very intensely and it gave me a very good education because i could just move from one subject to another
Fairly, easily and started learning it whether or not i’d had any formal training
So another common theme, was clearly your tenacity it seemed like once you had set your mind on solving a problem
You, would stay pretty committed to finding that solution
I, assume that had to be a
Critical component of your success yes and if i wanted for example to go to college i had to set my mind on that because
Nobody, from this, high school
Went to college and we didn’t have the money to send me so i had to go out and earn it myself with
Delivery newspapers that 2:00 or 3:00 a.m.. And
Finding other odd jobs and trying to win?
We’re then rather small scholarships here and there and a piece of them all together
so it took a lot of determination at that time because this, was an era, when people are much poorer than they are now, and
in which many fewer people, went to college and from this particular millio they, say nobody went
So you’re in college you actually started at berkeley i believe you transferred from berkeley to ucla because berkeley, was too expensive
you, graduate from
ucla and
Eventually get a job at mit where you met claude shannon, yes
so i know you began
talking to shannon about a variety of
Gambling problems that you were interested in and of course everyone knows. You for blackjack but
you, actually started with roulette correct, that’s right what happened, was i
changed from chemistry
After my freshman, year at berkeley the physics and moved to ucla and i got a. Bachelor’s and a master’s in physics and?
Then i ran into a lot of
There was a thesis in quantum mechanics and there were a lot of math problems
That i had to solve and i needed more math in order to do it?
So i went over to the math department and started taking courses
Without a lot of the prep courses that i would have needed had i been a math, major and
i learned that
When i was doing this that i could get out in math sooner than in physics so i did that and
However while i was working on my, master’s in physics i have thought, about roulette an idea it had way
Back in high school and thought that it was predictable so i decided i would try to build a machine to actually predict
where the ball would fall and
That’s what got me interested in gambling and
That led by chance to getting interested in blackjack because i went out
After i got my phd i was teaching at ucla for years i went out to the
Casinos in las vegas with, my wife for
Specification but my real, goal, was to look at roulette wheels and see if they were as
Well mushy perfect as i believed them to be and if the experiments i’d done were?
Which confirmed that if they were that way the experiments i did suggested that i’d be able to build
A machine to predict, and have a. Huge edge donee how
I, was there to look at roulette wheels and i happened to hear about a way of playing blackjack that was almost even?
so i
Decided to risk ten dollars at the blackjack tables partly to get some experience in the casino
Which were i had never gambled in and yet a feeling for the
environment because i thought i’d be playing roulette there for
substantial stakes that’s sometime in the future and what i learned during that blackjack experience convinced
Me that i could beat that game i went back to ucla and read the article very carefully that had given me the little
system for playing almost even and
I saw from reading the article that in fact it was almost certain i could beat it using some of the math i’d learned
So that set me on that track and?
Then when i went to mit i?
they, had a i b m
704 computer that i a faculty member could use i
Shared it with mit faculty and 30 new england universities computers were scarce in those days
this, thing, was refrigerator-sized and
Probably, not anywhere near as powerful as your
Phone that you’re carrying around
but i learned to
Type out type holes and punch cards and other in the program and fortran and in about, oh
a, year, i had worked out the theory for blackjack, and
Led me to claude shannon as it happened because i wanted to get
Very rapid publication, my experience had been that if you
Don’t publish something really interesting rapidly other people will claim they, did it and maybe published, before you
Did and the way to publish for it quickly
Was to get your article in the proceedings of the national academy of sciences which
Published short unusual articles that they thought were significant and to do that you had to have somebody from the national academy
Approve the article and send it in on your behalf
though, the only person in math in the national academy at mit was claude shannon but i looked him up and i was told if
You have an appointment with him he only
Talks to you for a few minutes at the most unless he gets interested for some reason or another and so
we talked, about black track and he agreed to send the paper in
and then he said, what else say you’re working on i
Said, well i have this idea for roulette and?
I’ve already carried it far enough to know that it’s almost certain to work and he was
You, may know that he’s the
Founder of information theory, which is a?
Major, underpinning for the whole digital, age and he, also was a great gadget cheer and he was one of the two
Distinguished professors on the mit faculty than the other being norbert wiener and
The fact that we could build a gadget really appealed to him and so, we spent about nine months in his basement
Outside cambridge in his big three-story house working on the computer, while i was busy teaching and also dealing with a
Black, jack and it’s fall out, and?
the upshot
Was that we actually built a computer that worked and it turned out to be the first of the wearable computers according to the mit
Timeline on this subject
Although, we weren’t thinking about that, we were just thinking about building something that would be amazing and?
Having a lot of fun with it i like that you invented the first wearable computer as just like a side thing yes
Just just as an aside on that i was at a meeting
A couple of decades later it was a biotechnology meeting and somebody said, did you know
You invented the first wearable computer and i said what’s a wearable computer?
I had lost track of this subject, never never thought, about it again, until that time
so shannon also
Led you to a critical component of what became your ultimate
Sort of theory of how to beat blackjack that’s a really interesting question
shannon was the
Most famous person at bell labs, which was one of the?
great historical think tanks and
The probably the second most interesting person there was a physicist named john kelly
So john kelly learned, about shannon’s information theory from shannon, he wrote a paper called a, new
Interpretation of information rate that came out in 1956 and that paper
Had to do with
interpreting a
Communication line that had defects in it interpreting it as a betting scheme and the upshot was that
He devised a method
By, which if you followed it your capital, would grow in the long run, faster than anybody, else’s
so i
Said this is the shannon told me about it and i said this is the perfect. Thing for betting at
Blackjack if i won’t live anchor role there and the casinos to grow at the maximum possible rate
So anyhow, i that for blackjack and i learned a great deal about it at the time and
over the years i used it in investing very successfully and then i
And two others were?
Editors of a book called came out 2010 it’s called be kelly capital growth investment criterion it’s a collection of about
700 pages of papers some of which
We the editors wrote and then connective and explanatory material so it it takes the subject. From this early time
When i was basically, using it for about blackjack betty up to the present, where you can
Use it for a very wide range of investing problems
so one of the
my recollection of
Sort of how you came up with
The best way to be blackjacks there were two significant insights one was clearly kelly
To, control your bankroll but another really had to, do with the expectancy that a
Player, had and how, that was actually a moving target unlike it was and all the other
Casino, games yeah, that’s exactly right ron the the key initial key insight was
Can you get an edge and what i realized, was that as they, deal down through the deck
Some of the cars are now out of the deck as you get to the second third rounds of dealing
And that will shift the odds one way or another?
And the insight, was that i could see right away the shift in the odds?
Was going to be very large in some instances which meant a winning
system because the edge i had to overcome in the casino initially
Was very small the it was believed to be points minus 0.6
2% for the player and it turned out actually, when i’ve finished
Analyzing the game i thought it was minus 0.2
One because the computer couldn’t, do all the computing but i knew that was a low, number it had to be better and
Just playing flat with, no counting that turned out to be plus 0.1. 3 and then when you start counting you get
Situations, where it’s 2 3 4 or 5% in your favor and so the obvious thing is you bet a lot
When it’s in your favor you bet a little when it’s not in your favor so you can
Keep your seat or not attract attention. If you’re always popping up and down and looking for another game it can
Focus the casino on you and they may, ask you to leave
So the kelley, system tells you how, much to bet in each of these favorable situations
Basically the ideas the more favorable the more you bet the more risky the less you bet and so it’s a trade-off between
Those two things and it’s
easy, trade-off to calculate when you know exact probabilities of things
More difficult when you only have rough probabilities like
You, do in investing situations or even very rough probabilities then you have to sort of cut. Back and not bettis punching
okay, so
All this culminates in the paper that yet that gets submitted
to, the national academy of sciences and
It’s obviously a huge hit you know
there’s there’s huge interest in it and the boston globe runs a big story on it papers around the country are running stories on it
And shortly after that you get a visit from an interesting guy and as i understand it his two nieces
Yeah, what happened was?
Lots of people showed up to my talk before the american, mass society in washington, which i
Explained all this to the audience and the audience was a collection of rather unusual people in addition to many mathematicians
so some of the people there wanted to bankroll a venture showing this actually work i
Was an academic i wasn’t particularly interested in doing that but the washington post
Ridiculed me in an editorial saying this is you know
A lot of poppycock, and they, went into, some detail about, why, they thought that and the casinos said
They, would send cabs for people like me and
They loved to have us come
With that i said you know i claim it works but, i haven’t actually gone out there
And proved it works and i kind of owe it to the people, who have heard, about this to prove that
What i said is so theoretically actually collects money in the casinos i thought, about it for a while and i was contacted?
persistently, by a
Wealthy, businessman in quotes, who lived in new. York city his name was the emmanuel kimmel i
Didn’t know, who he was at the time
Other than that he was a wealthy businessman and?
He, also, had a friend named eddie hand, who
Moved all the cars, and trucks for chrysler
Inc was absorbed by ryder?
in 1974
Got a lot of money for that in any case these two, wanted to put up $100,000 in bankroll a trip to las vegas and
I thought to myself you know i’d never
Really, played with any significant money i don’t want them to put up $100,000 in case something
Goes wrong if something goes wrong with the bankroll something might go wrong with me
though, i talking down to $10
$10,000 and they were extremely disappointed but they went anyhow. And we’ve spent a week out there and i i messed around with
betting $1 to $10 $2 to $20 because i one day get used to playing and handling the money and then i found i
Learned the feeling of scaling up when you knew, what you were doing and?
That there’s sort of no limit the scaling up once you
Understand what you’re doing and you have a disciplined approach and you know it works
After 20 hours of scaling up i got to what the limits were then 50 to 500 and so we turned their
$10,000 bankroll into a twenty one thousand dollar bankroll, we we’d won a net of eleven thousand
And that was what i forecast i’d forecast a winner of ten thousand b for the trip and?
So i was satisfied that i’d proved in principle that what i did was right
Because he knows weren’t terribly, happy with me though
This is a sidebar but can, you tell everyone how. You communicated with
Your wife that was hilarious, well my wife, was much more nervous than i was i was a naive about?
What casinos were like and you probably know. If you’ve read the book, casino in the seventies
our seeing the movie how, rough it was
Beatings killings and so on the 60s were even worse, but, this, was all unknown to me but
my, wife was more savvy and so she wanted me to call every, day, and
Say, how, we were doing but, we?
Didn’t have any significant amount of money and i decided that i would make phone calls that didn’t cost anything
though, i would
alter it collect, each, day and
Ask, for edward middle initial thorpe and
If i asked for an a middle initial it meant that, we were had
Between zero and $1,000 a b between 1,000 and 2,000 and so on so that would take us up to
26,000 if we got up to xia
And if we were losing i would just say put the initial first i’d ask for a edward thorpe if we’re losing
Between zero and a thousand and so forth
does she say it’s not home and
All she got were pluses has it happened because it turned out that between calls even though
We had a dip down of – 1300 we got back up in time then, when i i called at one point said
Ask, for edward m thorpe she was very happy
So last night at dinner you told us some really interesting las vegas stories, which unfortunately, we don’t have time for but
I’d love for you to tell the story, about what happened to your car
If he had been playing for a, while, well i got interested in other games as, well as
blackjack and you know, about roulette another one was
Baccarat played nevada, style and i happened to notice at one point that they, had, some side bets that were unusual
so i am a
Phd student of mine at new, mexico state which i was teaching out at that time
Analyzed the side bets i knew that there was a?
Card counting system that would work it was a matter of working out all the details so we figured out, how
To, beat them and then i went off there
It was a spring break at new, mexico state?
with the
chairman of the math department the comptroller of the university and our wives
and we set up shop in one of the hotels and then, we went to the dunes casino
Which i’m happy to say has been destroyed since then
i came up to the baccarat tables the first night and
Nobody noticed me i sat down, and then after i was playing
Somebody the crowd said there’s the guy, who wrote the book, and
The pitch got very excited and the pit boss ran over to the phone and called upstairs and one of the wives said
That she overheard the conversation and the upshot, was the fool, thinks he can beat another, game let. Him play
There were all smiles and very pleasant so, we want our?
Projected amount so much per hour
that night and
Then, we came, back the next night and they figured something was up
Somehow the fool seemed to be winning steadily so they had shills on each side of me and
the shills
Monitored my every move they thought maybe i was marking the cards and i helped them, along by
Burning, by, thumb behind, my ear periodically we’re with a. Job for marking the cards would be and
The chills were sitting in place
Very upset because i had a kind of a dry throat tickle and i was coughing
they, thought it was something terrible that they, were going to get if they had to sit right, by, me so they were they were
commanded to stay in place
and so, we went again the second night and
The third i say, we because i played two-shoes if the issue has eight decks takes
About 45 minutes then you have to count three things eights nines in total so that was
Fairly hard for people i so i i wanted to be relieved every third shoe so my two companions
The math department head and the comptroller i had trained up to count
Eighths in total for one of them and nines in total for the other so they
Each, did half of the side bets that were available and then i’d come
Back after after a one shoe break and played two more so that’s how, we went through the evening?
Well the third evening they, came out i’d been refusing drinks and
They, offered me what i like coffee with cream and sugar
That’s it fine and?
After a while i drank some of the coffee and i found that i just couldn’t think or count and i felt really terrible?
so i got up, and left the table and
The wife of the comptroller was a nurse at the local hospital and she said you know. Your pupils are gigantic
You, look, just like people, who are drug to have been brought in to avoid lead
They, said we better walk? You so they, walked, me for hours took me like
Five or six hours of walking and coffee to come back to some sort of state of normalcy
So the other two guys played on and then the fourth night i came
Back and they offered me cream and sure with a, big smile, again, and so so i said. No just bring me a
glass of water
so they brought the glass of water in my companions so, oh, no i
decided that i was clever enough not to drink the glass i would just put a drop on my tongue i
Put a drop on and a chase, would like that emptied a, box of baking, soda into the glass and
That drop was enough to, do the same thing with, me again i’ll swallow i think and i we wouldn’t be having this conversation?
So the four after the fourth night they told, my companions they were a bard so as i and never to bring
Anyone else to that baccarat table again
So i said, well there’s one more game in town it’s at the sands we’ll
Multiply the win rate by ten and see how
Long, we last it won’t be very long so i went down and i played two and a half hours and?
Then carol cohen, who was on the floor of the sands
Basically managing the operation and one of the partners came over and said you know
We want you out of here and i said do why and they said?
No reason and he had a gigantic security guard so i said, well okay i’m going
The, kyle cohen became famous, among other things for
Disciplining frank sinatra frank had a. 1% interest in the sands and
He, did something that i guess carl thought was out of line?
So carl i’ll back him in the mouth on loosened his teeth and tell him he couldn’t be on the floor anymore
He didn’t, mess with. Kyle so he was a no-nonsense
Casino manager
Though, anyhow, we were driving home after that the next day and i was on a narrow road neros ona?
Two-lane, road going downhill about 60 miles an hour, and
Suddenly the accelerator locked to the floor and i couldn’t
Stop the car i push the brake as hard as i could and we got up to 80
Wasn’t slowing down i thought you know it’s got to slow, down because there’s
No, way to control this car at this speed on this road
So i down shifted to first gear
turned off the key
Press the foot brake, as hard as i could and also use the handbrake
And that slowly brought the car down and we pulled him to a turnout put up, by the hood put a
white flag up on the antenna and
about an hour later because, we don’t know, what to do, some good samaritan came, by and
Stopped he knew all about cars and he said i’ve never seen anything, like, this with, this accelerator linkage
but i i know, how to fix it so he, did and then, we were on our way, again, but, this, was a
Sobering experience i can’t say, who was responsible or why, but that’s what happened
so my
question to you before i heard the story, was going to be
Why, write the book
When you have figured this out and you can just stay in the casino, making all this money but i think you’ve already answered
Why, you didn’t, want to stay in the casino so
How, did you get from own i guess it was around the same time obviously that you did your appearance you write the book you
Do the appearance on the game shows, and it’s all part of the book promotion
Tell us how. You went from
Solving the gambling problems and and promoting a, book to
Experimenting with stocks and bonds, okay i’ll just back up one second to pick up a thread that you
Commented on which is i?
Like to do things because they’re interesting not because they
Made money and the reason i get interested in gambling
Was because mathematicians had studied gambling since 1520 and tried to work out a theory of?
Whether you could win or not with various schemes and
Systems of betting and they concluded that it was not possible and they proved that for almost all the
Classical gambling games so
What got me interested was i said this is going to be?
Big news in the math world if they realize that there are some games that are exceptions to this
Rock-solid proof that they have and people would send in papers to math meetings saying they
Had methods that would work and they all turned out to be bogus
And they were all fell under the power of these theorems mathematicians have proven, which show
That they couldn’t work so anyhow. That, was my motivation rather than trying to get rich you know i was interested in academic life and
When i’d made some money from
playing, blackjack and from book royalties i
Said, well i’ve got to invest this money, we for the first time in our life
We actually are solvent and we have a small amount of savings
though, i made terrible investments and
Then i said i’ve got to learn how, to do this properly, because i’m not doing, well at all making these
Awful investments i mean ones that worked out, awfully i listen to stories believe some of them put, some money down terrible
So i sat down in the summer of 64 and
Spent the whole summer in a big bookstore in beverly hills reading every finance book and newspaper they, had in the store
I didn’t see where to go i saw there were a lot of ways you could go but i didn’t see what would work and
Then i sat down, again, starting the summer of 65
And right away it happened to read a little book, about warrants, which are like, like options only they’re
Issued by companies rather than on the exchange and i saw how to?
Make, a theory for those options and i realized that i could set up
very low
risk hedges using that theory and those options hedging against common stock and
So then i decided to
follow through on that and actually try it out and i ran into an economist at uc irvine when i came there in
the fall of 65, when the campus opened and
Turned out he was doing the same thing, and he’s written a phd thesis, about it about three years earlier and i said, well?
Well mister well professor kossuth if we get together and?
Put our minds to this, we can, make this much more powerful much more effective so, we sat down
And worked on the ideas for about a
year about once a week and, we wrote it up in a book called beat the market and
Meanwhile, we started investing money for people around campus and all work just fine so that led, me into the financial world
so so ed you developed an option model in
1967 yes the the model now is called black scholes yes
You, developed this five years before fischer black and myron scholes publish their research
Well talk a little bit about that yeah sure i actually
In 67 after
kossuth and i had gone on our separate, ways in the investment world i
worked on the theories, some more and i did something that people at mit had done about three years earlier, which is
i used something called the log normal distribution and
Integrated it and i got an option model and i after i did that i found that it already been done at mit?
There are two missing things in the option model one was the drift rate on the stock and the other is the discount rate
but the uncertainty off in the warmth and
So everybody, was stuck there they didn’t know, what to do about those two things which, by the way?
Picture of black and myron scholes figured out, what to do and that of course made them famous
Said i sat down, and thought, about it and i said
what if i lived in a
Risk neutral world
What would the answer be then?
well the drift rate would be
The riskless rate and the discount rate will be the riskless rate
So i popped it into the formula and i got this beautiful formula i said this has to be the right formula and
I’m going to be living in a risk neutral world because i know, how
To, hedge these things so there’s virtually, no risk i’m not gonna continuously, adjust, them because it’s too costly but if i have a
Whole pot of these option, and warren hedges in my portfolio
the little random
deviations from perfect, hedging are going to wash out and
So, my portfolio will rapidly converge toward a totally riskless portfolio if i have a setup with, quite a few positions
so i had this all up and running in
1967 later when i talked to fischer black i found, that he and scholes had actually figured out their option model in 1969 but
They, didn’t believe that they were right and so fisher black and myron scholes had their publication rejected i think more
Than a once they finally managed to get something in print in 1972
with i believe the intervention of
Maybe paul samuelson somebody at mit
So anyhow
So i had this a couple of years earlier and i was looking forward to the opening of the cboe
Figuring i’d be the only guy, who had that
And i was all set up with a, little hewlett. Packard 98 30
Computer, which was wonderful because it drew colored diagrams with ink pens and i could condense huge amounts of information
Into colored pictures so i had diagrams you could just look at
Them plot a point option, stock price option
Price and know what the hedge ratio was and how much overpriced or under priced it was
So i had all this stuff running, when i get this paper
It’s mimeograph that’s from somebody called fischer black, who i’ve never heard of because i’m not part of the financial community
I’m not part of the, well academic community that
Well i’m not part of the academic silos in finance and economics i don’t know
Any of these people i look at i say this looks a lot like
Formula though i draw i draw a graph from i program it very quickly and draw a graph
From the black a black controls paper and i see oh it’s not it’s not like
My, formula it but it has to be the same and then i look at it again i say oh i know
why it’s not the same it’s because i have three formulas not one and i put the wrong one in
So i put the right one in and yes it’s the same, why
Do i have three formulas it’s because in those days if you shorted the stock or the option
You, did not get to use the short sale proceeds whereas on the exchanges now
get full cash usage of them so i had to write a formula one formula for the case when i
Shorted the stock and bought options
And was deprived with the short sale proceeds a second formula when i got it from
When i was able to use them then a third formula when i was had the hedge the other way, and was to rot derived
Draw deprived with the short sale proceeds
So the chicago is coming out at. Me i’m talking very
So anyhow
That’s where that came from and to me it was just a tool for
Investing it i was unaware of any greater importance in the formula not being part of the communities that were aware of how
important it was
that’s story there it’s great it’s great so princeton newport partner starts in
1969 yes correct
What were some of the early strategies that you were you were trading well first, we had warrant hedging and then, we followed it with?
At the same time with convertible, bond hedging and the principle is pretty much the same a convertible, bond looks like a regular
Bond with, some so called latent warrants attached. You can’t cut
Him, off but it’s a combination of a regular, bond and a bunch of warrants or options attached
So, we had that going and then when, we heard about the options?
Has changed coming up, we were ready for that and then, we kept expanding the things, we could do beyond that?
things like
futures in
Sp 500 came on we began arbitrage in that we were among the first to do that on a large scale
we got into something else in
Became pretty interesting later it led to
A lot of trading and a lot of profits and i think ultimately to – high-speed trading and this thing
We got into it’s called statistical arbitrage and
One of our researchers i would charted a project that i called the indicators project and one of our researchers working on this project
By set a random idea out he looked at. Stocks that have been the most up in the last
Two weeks and noticed that they underperformed in the next two weeks and the reverse happened for stocks that were the most down
He said, well why don’t, we make a?
Portfolio, that’s short the most up stocks and long the most down stocks and i said yes?
well we’ll do it with one or two hundred companies on each side and
Diversify away market risk, and maybe we can, do it even better
By, diversifying the other factor risk and so, we were ready to do that but, we didn’t at the time because
We had our capital employed in hedges of various kinds fully and so
This didn’t look, as good as the hedges it seemed to have a higher
Risk than
The hedges, which seemed almost low. Risk they almost always made money
But he deferred it and then we came across somebody, who was a refugee from morgan stanley, who had discovered
The, same notion and improved it somewhat a, fella named jerry bamberger back in 1982 1983
Had discovered this
We were advertising for people with good quant ideas and so in 1985 he, saw
Ad the left morgan stanley came over and worked for us and so we then did statistical arbitrage
from then on and i only just continued it in
2002 but it was a great profit, center all that time and some of the people
Who, worked for me broke off and did it on a giant scale and made – actually billions of dollars
It’s great so princeton newport ran for 19 years yes and you compounded money at 19 percent roughly, yes at that time period
Which is about twice what the sp, was yesterday time period pretty spectacular track record?
However we giuliani, wasn’t so impressed with, your track record they, tell us some of the story around that okay, well we?
Were very averse to risk and we tried to?
Avoid, tail risk in any way, we could
Goldman, sachs for example once i owens, asked, them, what happens if a
Freighter with a nuclear, bomb, is set off in new?
York, they said what happens to our capital in our records they said, well we have duplicate records in iron mountain and i said?
well what happens if
There’s a giant earthquake in tokyo what will happen to our positions and i checked things like that
What will happen to our positions if the market drops 25% in one day
People everybody said, no i’m not
Gonna happen the worst day were you ever seen is 12 or 13 percent i said
Yep, but we’re safe for the 25 percent drop in one day, and we were so?
We made money every year every quarter and all but three months and the three months were all
1% or less in negative territory
But there was one risk that i hadn’t foreseen, now i’ll call it the rudy giuliani risky
But the way, we operator was we had at our peak about 40 people in newport beach, which, was the research and development area and?
Then, we had about 40 people in our princeton office and that was?
trading back office and
taxes and so on
So rudy giuliani it was making his name on wall street by
prosecuting people who he thought sometimes correctly sometimes not had broken various, securities laws, and
he was after michael milken and
Fella named bob freeman at goldman sachs
Bob friedman happened our bad luck
To, have been the roommate for jay regan, my the partner my co partner
Was managing the princeton office so giuliani, thought he could, squeeze regan for information on freeman, and we’ve done a lot of trading with
Drexel burnham too so he thought, we could he could, also squeeze him for information on mike milken
so he raided the princeton offices and
3,300 cartons i think of information and
Then went through it all and they happened to find some old trading tapes there were?
Three tapes that had four, days, each on them and they comb through all the tapes they found a couple things on those tapes
It gave him, some leverage one of them was
A stock parking
issue and the other was a stock manipulation issue and
They, were fairly minor as far as numbers, ago
but they were
illegal and so
he decided to use rico on princeton newport, and
Threatened to confiscate everything limited partners money and so forth and
the upshot was that
It wasn’t feasible to operate the partnership under these from stances though
We closed it down at the end of 1988 when all the smoke cleared two or three years later
The defendants had spent roughly 20 million dollars defending themselves and the
Whole result, after the government pretty much dropped the case the sole result, was fines for two individuals that
was it
But it did scare
Milken, and freeman into pleading guilty
before they saw the outcome of the princeton newport, case and of course rudy, went on to
Fame and notoriety as you know
Extraordinary really extraordinary so as you were having, some success at princeton newport. You started investing in other hedge funds and
you, stumbled across a manager a trader, who, was trading japanese warrants out of his dorm room yeah and
He tell us a little
about that story yeah i i have a friend frank meyer who sung i think is in the audience here today and
He heard about a fellow at harvard
Undergraduate, who, was trading securities out of his dorm room and doing very, well and he was into
Borned hedging and convertible securities this fellow at harvard
So frank followed up. And saw that he was doing very, well and?
Frank, decided he, would set him up in business
so they came out to talk to me in
California and i told him how, princeton newport work and i turned over a
number of cartons of prospectuses for
Warrants and convertible bonds those were valuable because they, had been around
Some of them for 15 years you couldn’t get him anymore if you wanted the trader warrant or a convertible
Bond you were well advised to know exactly what the terms were the prospectuses were the best summary source of information
So after i described how, princeton newport, worked profit centers fee fees and so on?
They, pretty much set up a firm called citadel that became
What it is now starting from a very small amount i think they had
The in or two to start with i was the first regular investor frank, was the
go, managing general partner and
It went on from there i did great, yeah it’s amazing track down so anyhow
Citadel is a good example of what princeton report would have evolved into, had, we not encountered the?
Giuliani, yeah yeah
So in 1991. You’ve stumbled across another extraordinary track record
this one though
Was doing something called split strike trading, yeah that, was sort of interesting i had a little, oh?
Sabbatical between the end of princeton newport and starting another statistical arbitrage hedge fund and
One of my friends, who was a fund of funds manager cool, bob
Well-known and made a lot of money at it
was consulting for a
International consulting firm on the east coast and he said we’re reviewing, their portfolio in alternative investments and
They, would like you to come, and have a look at it so i did and everything looked fairly reasonable
There were things like
elliott associates in the portfolio and
I went out, and kicked the tires there everything seemed fine
Now but then i had there was one track record that seemed very strange
The person, who had this track record of the firm that had it was making money every month and
My client had been in the
Investment for a couple of years they, made money every month one or two percent a month
The strategy, was to put a collar on stocks a put
And they would buy a put below, the stock price and sell a call
Above the stock price and the money from the call, would pay for the foot, would pay for the foot so they
Had zero net money up in options so you expected in the long run
That the rate of return, would be zero on the options and it would all be attributable to the stocks
However they did much better than investing in stocks and when
Market, was down the strategy should lose money in a month but it didn’t
so i
Wondered why i looked at their monthly statements in the statements there was a magical trade
In a month where this thing would have lost money that was a big short of the sp 500
stock index i
said, oh the only time they, do that is in a month’s worth the rest of it loses money i
Held, my nose and i started asking more questions i found out that
The head of information technology, was the operators brother i found out
That his accountant, was i a guy, who lived down the street he’d known for years and years i?
Then found out, that he told everybody that
If you were an investor with him you shouldn’t tell anyone else
So then i said i want to go over there and kick the tires and see what’s going on?
my client called and said they’re gonna send me over to the lipstick building in manhattan where this operation, was going on and
The, head, guy’s brother peter said, i will not let him in the front door peter was the guy, who
was printing all the confirms and running the it operation i
Said i’ve got to look at this more closely for you, this this looks fake to me
so i asked for the two months of their confirms i
checked the con, forms like any of
13,000 other investors could have done and
Checked them against newspapers half the confirms showed trades that never occurred because the conference showed you what the exchange
Was what the bottom was and so on these are often trades had never occurred?
The stock trades could have occurred because there was a big liquid stocks
So then i looked at another
The i looked at the remaining con firms and i found that half of those out of 160 over 160 total after those
At volume that was less than
The volume that my client alone had into accounts of about 25 million each
So i said these trades are fake you need to get out of this they said, yeah but we’re making twenty percent a, year
said, well
There are two cases you can move out of this
Fake 20% a year into your next best alternatives, which currently, we’re producing 16% a, year
Or you can, stay in your, fake 20% a, year if i’m wrong
It’ll be a real 20% and you’ll be happy but
If i’m right and you stay in the fake 20%. Your job is maybe history if this thing blows up
They around two months
They, understood, what was important and of course this was 1991?
no, one else had ever heard of this i was i had
Reported to a client it was up to them to say anything further they, did not want to say anything further. They
Wanted their affairs kept quiet
So i sat on my hands for 17
years waiting for something to happen and knowing it was it was getting bigger and bigger and bigger, we identified about half a billion in
Through, them through our grapevine at that time in 1991 that, was invested with this manager bernard madoff and
in of course in
2008 when it blew up there, was something like 65 billion in
Supposed money invested and probably maybe 40 or 50 billion in real money i’m not sure where the number, was and
An amazing side bit
Be at the fund of funds guy, who invited me to consult with the client
He heard all this he knew it was fake or he should have known it was fake
But the weight of everybody, else believing i think, may have convinced him i had to be wrong somehow. And as the years went by
Became more more evident that i must be wrong and so the very week that
madoff confessed
The person, who told me about this
Was listed along with?
family trusts
In the 13 thousand accounts that the sec published as
Been being current, was made and he was actually selling
madoff the week of the blow-up
Though, this is an amazing
exercise in just denial and
Just as a footnote this is the kind of thing that
You need to think about when processing information
And i one of the things that be very helpful to me is having what somebody, else called a very good bullshit detector
And i think that’s one of the most valuable things you can possibly have, when
evaluating investments or
investment managers
It’s amazing our time is out and i have one last question for you in your book, there’s a theme of?
introspection and knowing what is most important to you personally he devoted a couple of chapters to thoughts
And your epilogue in an industry that’s not always known for its moral code can you
You, talk a little about that
And some of the some of the thoughts you expressed in that one chapter sure, oh?
I’ve thought, about life from a number of different perspectives and
some people are so money driven that they never have enough and
So they, won’t stop until
The end whenever that is and they will, die with a pile of money and we’ll spend all their?
precious, life time chasing it and things and
My view, is that the most important thing in life, is the way you spend
Your time and the people you spend it with, and just how. You
Just how. You experience things as you travel, along
So to me money and things are just auxiliaries that, make things more pleasant but they’re, not the main goal in life
excellent thank you oh great
Do, we have time for a few questions any questions from the audience back there, we get a microphone
Being at to find in efficiency an edge i know, that’s the trillion dollar question
Where you think there might be opportunity, today that there’s some inefficiency left
Well a lot of people, ask, this because they, want to know
what to
Do with their money people with small amounts of meeting amounts and large amounts and so to me it’s a it’s a
Three-phase thing if you, don’t want to spend a lot of time
Then the obvious thing to do is to index and
That gets you a big advantages probably almost everybody here knows
Versus the average investor because you’re, not paying
transactions costs on the same scale that the active investors are and
you’re, not paying for
Advice which can, be very expensive?
You’re, also if your taxable not training generating as much
Taxable income as early
So it’s that’s a simple solution and just a matter of how
You, want indexed you, want all that goodies do you, want have small stocks the bills big stocks do you!
Want to have bounced in there you, want to already i t’s and so forth so there’s a discussion of that in my
Book, as to the pros and cons and the historical returns, and what you might expect and the next level is maybe your?
Small to medium investor but you just can’t sit still you’ve got to do something or you, want to learn something
About the markets so sure go in and have fun but, realize, that it’s going to cost you
You spend time paying your educational
Tuition to the market you may actually evolve into situations
Where things are really good i mean there’s some obvious things that i mentioned in the book one of them is?
Closed-end funds that are discount you
Want to spend some time studying that it’s not a very hard problem you can get a few percentage i believe?
another one is that everybody knows, about is
Mutual savings and loans
converting into
Publicly traded companies but that is so heavily done now, that it’s hard to make
Significant amounts of money this is good good stuff for small people, who happen to have had accounts in particular mutual savings
alone, when they do offer an ipo those people should, wake up and take advantage of it
then, there’s the
bigger level, where
You have a fair amount of money that you can
Bring to bear and that is a complex difficult problem because
So many other smart people are doing the same thing so you have a lot of competition in all these areas and
There are two ways to go you can, try to find somebody who’s running a. Successful alternative investment
operation, picking those is
Probably, as hard as picking stocks or close to it it’s basically the same problem in another setting
or you can try to go into business for yourself and
What i find, is that if you want to go into business for yourself you need some
Thing that will be a solid base that will make you a profit and then once you have this foothold
You can, begin to expand into whatever else comes along, but it’ll give you enough
Profit flow in the beginning so you can build an entity or an organization that then is expandable so those those are the three
Ways that i would look at it
Over on the side
i couldn’t understand all that occurred brisk parody any thoughts on on
risk-weighted responsed
Besting, well i’m not sure if i’m talking, about the same thing but there is a notion that has received a
Fair amount of press about how
People pay too much or high-risk securities versus low-risk, securities that, is that
What’s behind this?
It’s probably more of a generalized question it’s an investment strategy at bridgewater
Like strategy, sort of weighting your investments. By their risk, oh i see
Well i’d say?
The way to answer that
Is first to look at data, and see if it supports that methodology and then asked
Whether the extent to which it supports it is statistically significant
and i don’t know i don’t know the answer because i haven’t done that job
Mr. Thorpe i have a question about your investment in berkshire hathaway could you tell us about your meetings with mr.
Buffett, and then how. Long you’ve held, the stock and and whether you’ve been able to accumulate a big position early on sure
what happened was when i started setting up the warrant hedges back in
People around campus heard, about it and they wanted to invest and
So i managed, some individual accounts i was limited to 14. By the investment advisors act so i kept it under that
One of the people, who invested, was the dean of the graduate school at uci
His name was ralph waldo girard and turned out that he, was a?
cousin of a fellow named
benjamin graham and
Girard had been an early investor in the partnership called buffett, partners limited and he had a very happy experience
But the market, was manic in 1968 and?
Up pretty far in 67 too as i recall and buffett said you know we’re out of good situations i’m shutting down
Though, he, was giving money back to his partners and girard, was looking for another place to invest so he started with me
with a warrant hedge and
He, also introduced me to warren buffett, who warren buffett spent summers out in the newport beach, area, where i lived so
we had some
Dinners with
Warren buffett. A suzy buffett a ralph and his wife frosty, and me and my wife vivian
And then i had some bridge sessions with ralph and warren and i forget, who?
Was the other, who was the fourth
Though, weren’t asking a lot of questions and we chatted away and i realized at that time that he?
would be one of the richest people in
the united states because he had been at this game a long, time he already, had 25 million or so in
1968 coming out of buffett partners limited and he
Understood long-term compounding and he was willing to devote his life, to doing just that i personally would not have
Made that choice but everybody makes a different choice that suits them
so any apparently approved of me and
Gerrard gave me a large amount of his money to manage and ended up in princeton newport partners until the end there and actually a
Gerrard and then his wife died during that 19 years, we were running a princeton newport and so their
Estate remain invested in princeton newport
Until, we finally came to the end of princeton newport and made a lot of donations to uc irvine?
That’s where he, was leaving a lot of the money in any case
but one day in
1983 i was reading something or other and i came across berkshire hathaway there
Was some article about it and i realized that warren buffett, was running that as his, own over?
in 1982 i not sure the date you know i think it’s 83 in the book so i
Realized that warren buffett, had been running this as his, own private mutual fund all these years unknown, to me and the
when berkshire hathaway
When he first invested and it was at something like $12 i don’t know act number and then when. He shut it down
it was maybe in the 20s or 30s in
1968 and
he wanted to capture as much stock, as he could at that time that basically take control of the company
so when i saw it it was a nine hundred eighty two dollars and fifty cents so i started buying and
Held it ever since
I’ve given some of it to uc irvine to endow a chair in mathematics i gave them a little over a million
and i told them
Only take 2% a, year or less out. And it will grow so it’s about 2.6
million now even after they, had been spending i think, we endowed it in
2004 and of course it’s been a
little over 12 years
It has a lot of advantages to it
There are people the things that people consider disadvantages one of them, is that the rate of return
Hasn’t been
Much greater than that in the sp500 pretty close in fact over the last
seven or eight years i
In the book i break it into into phases or periods you can, see how it did in each of those periods
But and then people worried about
keyman risk
Charlie died as warren dies and so forth but
It has a lot of pluses going one is that it doesn’t pay dividends
Which many people consider our negative but i consider it a. Huge positive because you pay dividends you’re more likely to pay taxes and
so it compounds
Tax-deferred and when you actually?
Cash, some of it in if you need money you can
Always spend a little bit here and there you will pay long-term capital, gains tax under current law
As opposed to some higher rate of tax so it has a lot, going for it and then
Also i’m stuck in it because i have a low
A low
Basis and so i take it a
20 or 25 percent yet when i sell it and so i’ve got to have something really good in order to take that hit and
Change from it so warren’s strapped me
Well thank you ed we have to leave it there
Ed’s book is a man for all markets. He will be
At the event tomorrow with
A sweet and plenty of books if anyone’s interested in buying and getting a signature and chatting with ted so
Thank, you again for for being here with us

30 thoughts on “Edward Thorp: Beating The Market and Casinos With Mathematics

  1. Nice and Honest trader and family man.
    1000% want to be like him!

  2. Complete fcking genius, if u aint watching this then no wonder why you are broke and will remain broke till the very last day

  3. Who in the fuck are you and where do you go and get your videos?
    Im talkin to you investors archive

  4. Such a sharp and focused man. And spending a whole summer reading books about finance, a topic he had no former education in. He's clearly a genius, or close to that.

  5. fun talk, thanks. Just a note, intrusive auto level process used on the audio, annoying dip and little click at the beginning of every gap in the talk.

  6. rudy giuliani was never a stand-up guy when he is young, he was a crook before 911, crook after 911. Now a crazy old lawyer for the crook orange-monster-in-white-house

  7. with all the respect Warren Buffett deserves, because he's a legend no doubt about that. But this guy right here blows EVERYONE away. way beyond Buffett in terms of performance in investing.

  8. I'd watch this movie or movies. Good Will Hunting meets 21/Casino meets Wall Street

  9. You can't beat the casinos, you can't beat the market. When it comes to trading you can only have the best possibilities to buy/sell equities and so on. With a good strategy and money management you can be very profitable and do it full time job. As for gambling at casinos, well that's just it gambling. Even counting cards can't be done anymore because they are constantly switching cards. But this guy is smart for sure.

  10. Same old shit when a person DOSENT understand math. He's happy cause he understands it the rest loose out. Can't he help us

  11. Old town roads is full of weird comments…

  12. I listened to the audio book Man for all Markets, it appears that Dr. Thorp reads the book himself in the Audible version, very cool. Im pretty shocked at how calmly he can speak and he clearly communicates a very focused mindset when describing each of his endeavors. The book is hindsight and I still cannot wrap my mind around how one achieves that kind of calm focused mind. I found it most interesting when he reveals that he decided to share the Blackjack system, strategy and count system with the world: he didn't attempt to horde it. I recall him stating the reasons for this went something like this: 1. He is an academic, and the academic spirit is sharing knowledge. 2. Others would soon discover it anyway and 3. He knew he would continue to have more good ideas. So in this last statement mostly, its pretty obvious to me a core value of his is intellectual abundance: there are more than enough great ideas to be discovered. Shouldn't we all have this mindset when approaching the endeavors that we cherish?

    It seems like no idea lasts forever anyway. As I listened to Dr. Thorp's book, I got the feeling that, although it wasn't explicitly stated by him, that he always believes there is a potential solution and/or, he attempted to validate for himself any statement of conventional knowledge that interested or was applicable to him. He didn't state that he got stuck or quit to my recollection. He was disappointed (for example, the high school advance chemistry exam where he didn't have the proper slide rule otherwise would have finished first, for a college scholarhips) . But he seems to take a step by step approach, and even when faced with a roadblock, in a decision tree like manner, moved calmly to the next available action. I find myself ruminating on this process, and challenging myself to acquire it as a new priority.

    As I listened to the book and also after finding the above video, I became more and more intrigued at the patient approach. Dr. Thorpe states that this mindset, he believes, was largely honed by the fact that in his original high school he had to self- teach many of the subjects he was interested in.

    Lastly, but most importantly, his view on money. That an excess of money makes life a bit more pleasant, but the important things in life come from who you spend your time with and how you do things.

    I just really admire how he seems to have a very practical, simple, formulaic way to learn and solve the problems he encountered in his life. At each turn, whatever comes up, it almost appears to me he says to himself….Problem? Goal? …ok…run subroutine 1.1 again. And it seemed to work.

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