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Liar’s Poker


Liar’s Poker is a high-stakes Wall Street game that is based on betting and bluffing on specific dollar amounts featured on US Treasury bills. The players in this game, often financial professionals, compete against each other to make the best estimate regarding numerical values on the bills. The term is also known for its association with Michael Lewis’s book “Liar’s Poker,” which details his experiences as a bond salesman on Wall Street.


The phonetics of the keyword “Liar’s Poker” is: lahy-erz poh-ker

Key Takeaways

  1. The first takeaway from “Liar’s Poker” is that the financial system can be easily manipulated by those with insider knowledge and power. The book presents an overview of the investment world of the 1980s through the author Michael Lewis’s experiences at Salomon Brothers, highlighting the unchecked greed, recklessness, and lack of regulation that characterised Wall Street at that time.
  2. The second takeaway is that unethical behaviour and a lack of regard for moral principles can have far-reaching consequences. The bond traders in the book prioritized profits over the well-being of their clients, contributing to an unhealthy corporate culture and ultimately leading to the firm’s downfall.
  3. The third takeaway is the book’s critique of the fundamental practices and values that underpin the financial system. Lewis demonstrates how markets can be irrational and driven more by perception and hype than by intrinsic value. The game of ‘Liar’s Poker’ itself symbolises Wall Street’s essence, where bluffs, risks, and the ability to deceive are more important than financial expertise or sound judgment.


“Liar’s Poker” is a crucial term in business and finance, made famous by Michael Lewis’ semi-autobiographical book of the same name. It signifies a game of bluffing and deception played amongst traders on Wall Street. This game often typifies the culture of excessive risk-taking and speculative bubbles that can be prevalent in the financial industry. Observing or understanding the strategies used in such games can provide valuable insights into the psyche and behavior of traders. Ultimately, the term ‘Liar’s Poker’ serves as a metaphor for the problematic aspects of the Wall Street ethos, where overstating value, underplaying risk, and exploiting informational advantages for personal gain could potentially lead to financial crises.


Liar’s Poker is a non-fictional book authored by Michael Lewis that recounts his experiences as a bond salesman in Wall Street during the late 1980s. Apart from being a best-selling book, the term ‘Liar’s Poker’ could also mean a high-stakes and risky trading game often used by Wall Street traders to establish hierarchy and display bravado. This game is essentially based on guessing, bluffing, and wagering amongst traders and demands a keen understanding of human psychology, solid mathematical aptitude and strategic maneuvering.Primarily, Liar’s Poker was used as a power game to assess and establish prestige, ego, and status among bond traders. Domination in this game not only demonstrated the intellectual prowess of a trader but also dictated the pecking order within the trading culture. Furthermore, the game was used to foster strategic thinking, perceive the motives of opponents and adjust tactics, which metaphorically reflected in their trading activities in the actual market. In essence, Liar’s Poker was a tool for Wall Street traders to gauge their risk-taking ability, thereby moulding their behaviour and strategy in the trading floor.


“Liar’s Poker” is a term made popular by Michael Lewis’ semi-autobiographical novel, ‘Liar’s Poker.’ It is largely used as a metaphor for Wall Street culture, where high-stakes gambling, deceit and aggressive behavior are commonplace. The term can be applied to situations where competition, risk, bluffing and the ability to read people’s intentions are crucial.1. Stock Market Trading: The stock market is a perfect real-world example which can resemble a game of Liar’s Poker. Traders often speculate and bluff about the stocks they hold, hoping to influence others to buy or sell particular stocks thereby manipulating the market to their advantage. The highest “bets” often come with high risks and potentially high rewards.2. Business Negotiations: In many high-stakes business negotiations, tactics analogous to those used in Liar’s Poker can be used. For instance, a company may bluff about its interest in acquiring another company, in order to drive up the price, deter competitors, or influence the target company’s behavior in some other way.3. Real Estate Market: Liar’s Poker can be seen in play in the real estate market, where sellers often bluff about the interest level in a property to try and drive up the price or close a sale more quickly. Buyers, conversely, may downplay their interest in an effort to negotiate a lower price. Remember, even though these examples reflect the idea of Liar’s Poker, such deceptive practices could lead to fraudulent activities which have serious legal implications. In a business context, honesty and integrity are always the best policy.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

What is Liar’s Poker?

Liar’s Poker is a non-fiction, semi-autobiographical book by Michael Lewis detailing his experiences as a bond salesman on Wall Street during the late 1980s. It is also a term for a high-stakes game often played in trader’s offices where one wager over the serial numbers on dollar bills.

What are the basic rules of the Liar’s Poker game?

The game starts with every player receiving a random eight-digit number where they bid on the quantity of particular digits that appears across all numbers. The game quickly turns into a psychological match to determine who is bluffing and who isn’t.

What’s the historical context of Liar’s Poker?

The book Liar’s Poker provides profound insights into Wall Street culture and economics, particularly during the 1980s. Lewis recounts his experiences and observations of recklessness, quick profit motives, and aggressive trading tactics.

How is Liar’s Poker relevant in the business world today?

Though specific practices have evolved since the ’80s, the book’s core themes of risk, reward, and individual and institutional behaviors are still relevant. These principles apply to any financial industry environment, offering valuable lessons for those in finance and general business risk management.

Who should read Liar’s Poker?

Anyone interested in finance, economics, or business ethics should read Liar’s Poker. This includes aspiring and current financial professionals, business students, and those interested in the strategic and psychological aspects of financial markets.

What does Liar’s Poker reveal about Wall Street culture?

Liar’s Poker portrays Wall Street culture as highly competitive, often ruthless, and willing to take large risks. It reveals the immense pressure placed on traders to produce profits, the aggressive tactics used, and the ethical dilemmas these individuals sometimes face.

What other works has Michael Lewis produced?

In addition to Liar’s Poker, Michael Lewis is known for other bestsellers like The Big Short, Flash Boys, and Moneyball, which all examine different aspects of finance, economics, and business culture.

Where can I purchase a copy of Liar’s Poker?

Liar’s Poker can be purchased through various outlets, including major book retailers, online platforms like Amazon or Barnes & Noble, and digital ebook providers. It may also be available at your local library.

Related Finance Terms

  • Michael Lewis: The author of the book “Liar’s Poker” which narratives the Wall Street’s culture in the 1980s.
  • Bond Trading: This is prominently described in “Liar’s Poker”. It refers to the buying and selling of debt securities in the financial markets.
  • Salomon Brothers: This was a renowned Wall Street investment bank where Lewis worked and it’s featured prominently in “Liar’s Poker”.
  • Mortgage Backed Securities (MBS): Financial assets that are mentioned in “Liar’s Poker”. They are secured by a collection of mortgages and traded in financial markets.
  • Junk Bonds: Another financial instrument discussed in “Liar’s Poker” , these are high-yield or non-investment grade bonds with a rating of ‘BB’ or lower. They offer high interest rates to compensate for their high risk of default.

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