Trading Bases: A Story About Wall Street, Gambling, and Baseball (Not Necessarily in That Order ) Hardcover – Mar 7 2013
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"You don’t have to be a baseball analyst or former stock trader to connect with Trading Bases...Trading Bases will help you to be that fan." - Dallas Morning News
"A funny and stimulating account of a former stock trader who applies his Wall Street philosophy and knowledge of baseball statistics to try to beat the betting line." - The Chicago Tribune
"His swaggering story, from frantic stock trader to professional sports bettor, is the basis of Trading Bases, an entertaining book about how to turn your passions into profits. Even casual baseball fans could learn from it. Serious fans should slurp it up like ballpark beer." - The Los Angeles Times
About the Author
JOE PETA was a Wall Street market maker and hedge fund stock trader for fifteen years. A sports bettor for even longer and a lifelong baseball fan, he lives in San Francisco.
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Be warned however, that if you are hoping for a black box method to riches or a sure-fire formula to instant wealth, you won't find it here. Peta is a huge baseball fan, and doesn't mind spending hours every day poring over statistics and crunching numbers. He also is deeply into odds and probabilities. If you are too, then there are enough graphs and charts in the book to make your mouth water. Peta has found a way not to beat the odds, but to make sure you only bet when the odds are in your favor. It takes a lot of time and math, and if you aren't seriously interested in baseball and numbers, this isn't the plan for you.
As a fun read though, if you just zip past the charts and formulas, there's an engaging story here by an author that knows his stuff and still seems like a nice guy.
As Peta was recuperating, he would immerse himself in the latest Baseball Prospectus for hours on end, to take his mind off his plight; at least for a while. One day he had a brainstorm - he would apply his analytical knowledge of baseball, crunch the numbers, and develop a model for predicting with a relatively high level of probability, how the games themselves would play out. He was going to beat Las Vegas; not an easy proposition, but one that ultimately paid a very nice annual return - 41% to be exact.
As Peta's engaging tale unfolds, he walks the reader through the various formulas for predicting certain outcomes in MLB, and how luck - good or bad -sometimes comes into play in making things unpredictable. The baseball sabermetric community will love this book, as will anyone who likes to gamble a bit, or figure out what's going to happen on Wall Street.
Of course, the usual disclaimer applies here: *The results were attained by a trained professional. Your results may vary.
Before you ever get to a word about Wall Street, about gambling, or even baseball in Joe Peta's memoir, there is an 11 word dedication -- shorter than the average tweet -- that gives you a clue Trading Bases isn't your run-of-the-mill book about any of those topics. I won't reveal it here, but it's sweet, funny and charming and by the time I got to the middle of the book where the numbers-heavy passages subtlely morphed into unexpectedly charming storytelling, I realized, just like the "not necessarily in that order" subtitle, it provided a clue as to what was to come.
The chapters dealing with sabermetrics -- the science of baseball statistics Peta credits men like Bill James and Nate Silver with creating -- are fortunately filled with pop culture references and analogies not related to numbers so that they read easily, even for those who are inclined to skip the tables scattered across those early chapters. But once the foundation of those early chapters are set, they serve as a starting point for discussions on Lehman Brothers, the financial crisis, the similarities between Las Vegas bookmakers and Wall Street traders and, of course, being a baseball fan. It's the baseball discussions -- the experience of enjoying a game in a bar with friends, the oh-so-American tradition of having a catch with your dad, etc -- that are so moving I found myself reaching for tissues. Chapter 12 alone, which I won't spoil with details, earns this book 5 stars.
It won't surprise me if the gamblers and traders that share Joe's interests love this book. What might shock them is how much their wives and parents do too.
Such is the case with Joe Peta's Trading Bases: A Story about Wall Street, Gambling and Baseball (not necessarily in that order).
Peta is a former high-stakes, Wall Street broker. He's also passionate about his baseball. One afternoon in 2011, Peta was struck by an ambulance in downtown Manhattan. He was left in a wheelchair and summarily fired from his position. He's quick to point out he was not fired because of his injury, however, they did "roll him off the trading floor."
An avid sports fan who used to "treat the arrival of the new issue of Sports Illustrated like a weekly holiday," Peta decided to use his fortune, and new misfortune, along with his affinity for both numbers and baseball, to see if there was any way he could predict trends and make consistent money by gambling on our national pastime. Peta's not the first to do so and certainly won't be the last but would his model succeed where others have failed?
"Bringing together my love of trading and markets, models and sports betting, I decided to use the findings of baseball's `sabremetric' community to build a model that would beat the Las Vegas baseball line. I'm talking about doing research, believing that work creates an edge over others, and then investing in that edge. When trades with a positive expected value present themselves on the trading floor, you jump in with both feet. Betting on baseball futures was no different."
You just started paying attention, didn't you? Trust me, when I first heard about the book, I was skeptical, yet eager to find whether Peta's "investments" paid off or whether he was just one of those slick suited, scam artists trying to guarantee us a winner.
He's not. His model worked and he goes into a fair amount of detail why so buckle up and get your calculators ready.
One not need be familiar with the work of Bill James or Billy Beane to enjoy Trading Bases. Peta introduces the reader to both. In fact, at times the book is so numbers-intensive, Peta attempts to quantify "luck." Go figure.
Not only does Peta use his own brand of sabremetrics to determine season over/unders (against Las Vegas'), he uses his strategy to make money on single-game match-ups. He finds value where he and Vegas differ, then bets accordingly. He addresses how much to wager and why betting on baseball is a more prudent than gambling on other sports.
The book is not only about baseball and gambling. It's about his experience on the floor as well. At some points, Bases got a little too stocks-and-bondsy for me considering terms like hedge funds, basis points and equity-related derivatives don't exist in my vocabulary but Peta effectively parallels the financial crisis and risk management to gambling, something too few us do after one too many cocktails at the blackjack table.
Using the 2011 season as his test case, Trading Bases details Peta's renewed passion for baseball, the stock market and the inherent ups and downs of them both. After experiencing positive returns in April and May, Peta experienced a downturn the next two months, which led to panic from some of his backers. He started to rethink his model, taking a closer look at what was going on. He discovered that the "cluster luck" of a hot Minnesota Twins team, a team he had projected to do poorly, had messed with his model in the short-term. After taking a closer look at their success, he banked things would work itself out over time.
So did they, you ask? Well, obviously the model worked otherwise there would be no reason to write the book. After one full season, Peta had bet on just over 2000 games, earning himself a 33% return on his investment, despite the ebbs and flows of a few teams that broke trends. Not a bad year at the office. He made another 12% return on his investment over the 2012 season.
When it's all said and done, Peta does what most any educated gambler does when it comes to laying big money on games. He finds inherent errors in a Vegas line then attacks. He just lives to tell about it and does so with a lot more spreadsheets.
If you've never considered betting on baseball, Peta makes a convincing argument on its behalf as long as you do so responsibly. Just be prepared to put some work in.
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