Brown, Aaron 1956-
Brown, Aaron 1956-
PERSONAL: Born 1956, in Seattle, WA; married Deborah Pastor (a portfolio manager), 1987; children: Jacob and Aviva. Education: Graduated from Harvard University; University of Chicago, M.B.A. Hobbies and other interests: Swimming, sailing, hiking, biking.
CAREER: Investment banker, financial manager, and writer. Morgan Stanley, New York, NY, executive director of risk management. Worked for Prudential Insurance, Newark, NJ, and Lepercq, de Neuflize, New York, became head of Mortgage Securities, ending 1988; later taught finance at Fordham University, New York, and Yeshiva University, New York; later worked for JP Morgan, Rabobank, and Citigroup. Serves on the editorial board of the Global Association of Risk Professionals. Also ran the Allied Owners Action Fund.
MEMBER: National Book Critics Circle
The Poker Face of Wall Street, John Wiley (Hoboken, NJ), 2006.
Columnist for Wilmott Magazine. Has contributed chapters to professional books on poker and finance.
SIDELIGHTS: Aaron Brown is an investment expert, poker player, and author of The Poker Face of Wall Street. In his book, Brown writes about playing poker but focuses on Wall Street and investing. The reason for discussing poker and investments is that Brown believes the two have a lot in common. For example, he writes about how playing poker can help train someone not only in risk evaluation but also in how to accept the risks inherent in investing. Brown offers advice that applies both to poker and investing, such as how to do your homework and aiming for success. He also relates the “pot” in poker to investing and writes that neither the poker player or the investor should become so “pot committed” that they don’t know when to fold. The author also writes about the important personal assets that can lead the poker player and investor to accept losses and still play the game. Writing in Business Week, Peter Coy noted: “The Poker Face of Wall Street is a sprawling, idiosyncratic, and sometimes poker-obsessed book filled with nuggets about American history and finance.” Coy went on to write that it is the author’s “quirkiness that makes this book special.” In a review in Publishers Weekly, a contributor noted that the author’s “model is instantly graspable, but so contrary to. . . conventional wisdom. . . that it may well spark debate.” D. Murali, writing in the Hindu Business Line, commented: “Ideal read to cool off with before the market opens on Monday.”
Brown told CA:“It has been a lifelong dream of mine to write a book. I don’t mean to make my living by writing, or to express some specific ideas, just to write one book. Like any good dream, it turned out to be much harder than I thought, much different than I thought, but just as rewarding as I thought.
“I started out by learning and doing some things that could serve as the basis of a good book and by writing a lot of magazine articles and stories. When I got good enough to pound out a competent 2, 500-word article in a day, I figured I could do a 100, 000-word book in three months with little trouble. That [reasoning] is completely mistaken, because it ignores the links within the material. I could have written forty essays in three months without trouble, but to express an idea worth 100, 000 words requires weaving together many threads. The number of connections increases with the square of the length, so the 100, 000-word book is 1, 600 times as hard as a 2, 500-word article and should take about five years.
“I somehow finished it in three months anyway (because I’d been thinking about it for much longer than five years), eventually writing 220, 000 words, then cutting it down to 90, 000. I later discovered that this is very common for first-time authors. At the beginning, you can’t imagine filling the book, so you start writing any drivel to fill the pages. Some of that drivel turns out to be much better than the stuff you meant to write about. It needs strict editing, but a book begins to emerge naturally from the process. Of course it’s nothing like the book you started out to write.
“I was very gratified to sell 15, 000 copies immediately, enough for the publisher to bring it out in hardcover, then see it settle down to moderately robust sales. My fear was that no one would buy it, so I would never know if it was any good. Even a couple thousand sales would have been enough so that if it didn’t take off, I would know it had its chance and lost. I could live with that, but not with the book never having a chance. I didn’t try to write a book that everyone would like. It was more important to me that people will still be reading it ten years from now.
“I used to gag a bit when writers thanked their families and copyeditors and friends, but I no longer have that reaction. One of the best parts of writing a book is the help you get from family, friends, and strangers, and you need every bit of that help.
“I recommend the experience. If you think you have a book in you, you should write it. Don’t do it to get rich or famous, do it for the book.”
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES
Brown, Aaron, The Poker Face of Wall Street, John
Wiley (Hoboken, NJ), 2006.
Business Week, June 5, 2006, Peter Coy, review of The Poker Face of Wall Street, p. 134.
Global Investor, June, 2006, Claire Milhench, “Dealer’s Choice,” profile of author, p. 14.
Hindu Business Line, May 27, 2006, D. Murali, review of The Poker Face of Wall Street.
Publishers Weekly, March 6, 2006, review of The Poker Face of Wall Street.
Aaron Brown Home Page, http:///www.eraider.com/ index.php (November 15, 2006).