Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Investing or Gambling? Part 5: Spotlight on Successful People

Doyle Brunson in 2006 World Series of Poker - ...Image via Wikipedia
We are all enamored by the success stories of many individuals. For those of us interested in investing, we have role models that we wish to emulate. Similarly, for those of us who wish to be successful gamblers, we point to those people who have made it big and say we can do it too.

Below,  we have highlighted six practitioners from both the gambling and investing professions who have made significant contributions to their societies and amassed a fortune at the same time. The list is intended to be a cross-section of representatives who have helped their professions advance. The list is not prioritized nor is it complete, as there are many more people who have succeeded as well.

Successful Gamblers

Doyle Brunson: Considered to be the patriarch of modern poker, this famous gambler revolutionized poker in 1978 when he published his book called Super System. Times were not always easy for this Texan who went to college on basketball and track scholarships. But, after he shattered his leg in an accident, and was diagnosed with terminal cancer in 1962, this legend learned to become successful playing the game that he loved. Quote: Through the years I've never stopped doing things, thinking about things, and I still think young.

Gonzalo Garcia-Pelayo: A Spanish mathematician and record producer who believed that roulette wheels were not completely random. Began to exploit the game by recording winning numbers on thousands of spins, and then analyzed the data. Afterward, he used this data to win over €2 million.

Dominic LoRiggio: Became famous for controlling dice while playing Craps. Learned the skill through years of practice and identified ways to set, grip, and toss the dice to achieve a desired roll. Called the Dominator, he says it is a matter of simple physics. Claims to have won thousands of dollars at various casinos.

Edward Thorp: The creator of card counting, a technique by which a player can keep track of the cards that are played and those left in the deck. Most notably recorded in his 1962 book called Beat the Dealer. He has a M.A. in Physics and a PhD in mathematics, and taught at M.I.T. He published a second book in 1967 called Beat the Market and then started a derivatives based hedge fund.

Admiral Henry John Rous: Devised the first methodology for handicapping horse racing. It was based on the Weight for Age Scale which tabulates results based on a jockeys weight and a horses age.

Billy Walters: One of the instrumental managers of The Computer Group, a sports betting operation, that won millions by analyzing all the statistical data about the teams, weather, and more. The Computer Group was forced to break up in 1987, but Billy Walters has continues to win annually using a team of associates who specialize in various aspects of the games.

Successful Investors

Myron Scholes: Co-inventor of the Black-Scholes Option Pricing Model, he was a managing director and co-head of fixed-income derivatives at Solomon Brothers. Then, he co-founded the hedge fund, Long-Term Capital Managment which obtained annualized returns over 40%. The fund failed in 1998 after losing $4.6 billion in four months. He is now chairman of Platinum Grove Asset management.

Tutor Jones: the founder of Tudor Investment Corporation. Later organized the Tutor Group that includes the former and a variety of affiliates. Is actively involved in trading, investing research and more. Current estimated net worth is $3.2 billion. Quote: The most important rule of trading is to play great defense, not great offense.

Warren Buffet: Formed Buffet Associates in 1956 with 7 limited partners and $150,000. Buffet used $100 of his own money. After 10 years, his assets rose by 1,156%.  Then he bought control of Berkshire Hathaway and became Chairman in 1970. Now has net worth of $47 billion. Quote: Rule No.1: Never lose money. Rule No.2: Never forget rule No.1

Peter Lynch: Earned the reputation of being one of the best stock-pickers in the world after managing Fidelity Magellan fund from 1977 to 1990. Those who invested $1,000 in 1977 would have worth of $28,000 in the 13 years during his control. Favorite Principal: Invest in what you know.

Benjamin Graham: The Father of security analysis and value investing. Wrote two books on these topics in 1934 and 1949 which are considered to be requites for all investors. A mentor and early employer of Warren Buffet. Principle: Know What Kind of Investor You Are

George Soros: Co-founded the Quantum Fund in 1970 at age 40. Aquired most wealth by acheiving  returns of 4000% during the next 10 years. Is now estimated to have $11 billion. Quote: The financial markets generally are unpredictable. So that one has to have different scenarios.. The idea that you can actually predict what's going to happen contradicts my way of looking at the market.

Michael Moritz: A journalist for Time that became a Venture Capitalist two years later in 1986. Joined Sequoia Capital and had made huge returns by investing in Google, Yahoo, PayPal, and many others. Fell out of the Billionaires club in 2008, but still has lots more money.

By reading the stories of the individuals above, we can identify certain traits common to all. First, most are highly educated.  They all share a deeper knowledge of mathematics and used this skill as a tool to analyze their content. All are hard working and highly dedicated. Success didn't come overnight, but after years of studying, practicing, and hard work.

For us to succeed then, we must conclude that we can't give up. Some have made mistakes, earning a fortune and then losing all or part of it. However, they never gave up on their pursuits and all succeeded in the long run.
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