In the meantime on the trading floor throughout july

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In the meantime, on the trading floor throughout July and August, the betting began. The trading floor was a betting culture. Traders would wager on anything: Wimbledon, the Masters, how many White Castle burgers a first-year analyst could eat. Even the tech-bubble bust didn’t put a dent in the action. I remember one trader, a very scrawny guy named Tommy, whom everyone used to make fun of. At one point, traders started betting on how much Tommy could bench- press. It turned into such a big deal that people started announcing their wagers over the Hoot, the floor-wide intercom system usually used for business announcements, originally known as the Hoot- and-Holler. Everyone had a view. The sentimental stance was that while Tommy looked scrawny— he was around five-ten, and 145 pounds, tops—he could probably bench more than people thought. There were also a lot of antisentimentalists. It became this huge market; everyone was going back and forth—maybe to compensate for some of the flatness in the real-life markets. Then, one day, during a late-morning trading lull, one of the managing directors said, “All right, we’re settling this right now. Tommy is going down to the gym.” A big argument ensued about how many witnesses were necessary. Finally three witnesses were sent down, and of course Tommy benched way more than anyone had thought possible. A lot of money changed hands that day. Years later, Tommy, too, would become an MD. Now, in the summer of 2001, the betting action on the floor centered on how the new analysts would perform on the Series 7. The betting worked just like trading. Sometime during a lull in trading, usually around 11:00 to 11:30 A.M. , somebody would stand up at his desk and call to someone in the next row: “So the exam is coming up—what do you think? What are your Series 7 markets?” Full voice, loud enough for all to hear. “How do you think Greg is going to do? How about Mulroney? What about JF?” Then, just as in trading, one guy would say, “Well, my market on Greg is 72 at 77.” His “market” meant his spread: his bid and his offer. Meaning he would buy a 72 (he thought Greg was going to do better than that) but he would sell a 77 (which meant he thought I was going to do worse than that). Then the person he was betting with could either buy or sell his market. Let’s say that person thought I was going to get less than 72. He’d say, “I hit your bid at 72.” Meaning, 72 was now the bogey. So if I got higher than 72, the guy who’d bought it won. If I scored lower than 72, the guy who’d sold it won. How much? Usually house minimum bets were a hundred bucks (or a “hundo,” as they say on Wall Street). But money wasn’t the real point. The point was to intimidate and provoke the analysts taking the test. To put them under pressure. To say, “You don’t want to screw this one up.” I felt as if I was on the verge of doing just that. The night before the Series 7, I took a break from studying at the massive and ominous-looking Bobst Library at NYU in the Village—my old Stanford student ID card got me access—to phone a friend and fellow analyst, a Swedish guy named Kris
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