Edward Thorp: The Genius Who Mastered Gambling and Investing

Imagine a career where your money grows at a staggering 19.1% for almost two decades. Sounds like a fantasy, right? Well, not if you’re Edward Thorp, the genius who beat the dealer, the market, and the odds with his innovative strategies.

In this article, I’ll dive into the fascinating life of Edward Thorp, revealing how you can harness his strategies to supercharge your trading or investing goals. By the end of this piece, you’ll not only have a deeper understanding of Thorp’s journey and achievements, but a blueprint to use his strategies to build a fortune beyond your wildest dreams.

Key Takeaways

  • Edward Thorp used his blackjack card counting technique to beat the stock market and reach a $800 million net worth.
  • His first hedge fund, Princeton Newport Partners, earned 19.1% returns for nearly twenty years.
  • Thorp’s second hedge fund, Edward O. Thorp & Associates, generated an annualized return of 18.2% over a decade.
  • Edward Thorp used math models to spot market inefficiencies and find undervalued opportunities in the market.

Edward Thorp’s Early Background and Education

Born on August 14, 1932, hedge fund manager and American mathematics professor Edward Thorp came from humble beginnings. As a curious youngster, he wasn’t your run-of-the-mill kid. Thorp was captivated by the mysteries of the world.

First of all, he had an enchanting fascination with balloons. He’d conduct backyard experiments, observing their flight patterns with a keen eye. He also dove headfirst into the world of amateur radio operation, dedicating countless hours to tinkering with radio equipment. This thirst for knowledge was the spark that ignited his future achievements.

Luckily, Thorp’s brilliance wasn’t confined to his backyard experiments. He was a star pupil, earning scholarships that flung open the doors to higher education. Thorp began his academic journey at a local college but quickly outgrew it. His intellectual prowess eventually led him to the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).

At UCLA, Thorp found his true calling in the mathematics department. He reveled in the challenging environment, pushing his intellectual boundaries. His relentless dedication and hard work paid off, earning him a Ph.D. in Mathematics.

This was a shining testament to his extraordinary mathematical abilities, which he later used to become a successful investor.

Edward Thorp’s Career and Achievements

Of course, Ed Thorp didn’t jump right into the finance world after graduating. Instead, he dove headfirst into the world of gambling and turned it upside down.

The Man Who Beat the Casino: Thorp’s Card Counting System

Edward Thorp, a wizard of mathematics, crafted the first card counting system for blackjack, a game traditionally left to the whims of chance. But to Thorp, it was a tantalizing mathematical puzzle begging to be solved.

His system was straightforward yet groundbreaking. It involved keeping a keen eye on the cards dealt and adjusting bets based on the cards left in the deck. But could it hold up in the cutthroat world of real casinos?

Enter Manny Kimmel, a seasoned gambler with an adventurous spirit. Thorp’s theories caught his attention and Kimmel decided to finance Thorp’s experiment in the glitzy, high-stakes world of real casinos. The outcome? Thorp’s system passed with flying colors, leaving them grinning with a handsome profit. 

The First Wearable Computer: Thorp and Shannon’s Roulette System

But Thorp’s brilliance didn’t end at the blackjack table. He also joined forces with Claude Shannon, the genius behind information theory, to conquer another casino staple – roulette.

Their masterstroke? The world’s very first wearable computer. This revolutionary gadget predicted where the roulette ball would land by measuring the speed of the wheel and ball. The outcome? Astounding. Their system gave them a whopping 44% edge – a massive jump from the paltry 5.26% house edge.

From Casino to Wall Street: Thorp’s Foray into Finance

But Thorp’s genius wasn’t confined to the glitz and glamor of casino tables. He saw the stock market as a tantalizing mathematical enigma, ripe for unraveling.

Harnessing his statistical wizardry, Thorp unearthed an options pricing formula, even before the famed Black-Scholes model graced the public. This formula was his secret weapon, enabling him to pinpoint options prices with uncanny accuracy, and gain an enviable upper hand in the market.

In a nutshell, Ed Thorp wielded the same secret that helped him outsmart casinos to outwit the stock market. He demonstrated that armed with the right mathematical artillery, it’s possible to anticipate and cash in on market fluctuations.

Birth of Princeton Newport Partners

So what did he do with his newfound investing prowess? In 1974, Edward Thorp established Princeton Newport Partners, a trailblazing quant hedge fund. But what made this firm so special? It never had a single down year.

So, how did Thorp pull off this financial feat?

It was his relentless quest for market inefficiencies and anomalies. His sharp eye saw golden opportunities where others saw dead ends, resulting in a jaw-dropping annualized return of 19.1% over 19 years.

But unfortunately, Thorp had to close the hedge fund after being investigated for breaking the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act. While investigators ultimately found Thorp and his team innocent, the financial burdens from the scandal were too much to bear, leaving Newport Partners with no choice but to liquidate. 

The Winning Streak Continues with Edward O. Thorp & Associates
But Edward Thorp’s Midas touch extended beyond Princeton Newport Partners. He boldly launched his second venture, Edward O. Thorp & Associates, continuing to leverage market quirks and oddities with a strategic finesse.

Did it perform as well as his first venture?

You bet! Between 1992 and 2002, this fund catapulted to an annualized return of 18.2%. This stellar performance only amplified Thorp’s standing as a finance virtuoso.

Overall, Thorp’s journey is a masterclass in tenacity, originality, and the relentless chase of golden opportunities. The jaw-dropping performance of his funds is a testament to the fact that with a bulletproof strategy, it’s indeed possible to hit the bullseye in the financial market consistently.

Edward Thorp’s Investment Strategies: A Complete Playbook

Now let’s delve deeper into the innovative strategies that allowed Edward Thorp to revolutionize the finance world and establish two successful hedge funds.

The Trick to Finding Market Inefficiencies

Edward Thorp was convinced that financial markets, just like any other, were prone to discrepancies and errors. But how did he turn these market hiccups into profitable opportunities? Thorp wielded mathematical models like a weapon, using them to spot price discrepancies between various markets or securities.

His weapon of choice? Statistical arbitrage, a quantitative strategy designed to spot market inefficiencies and exploit them for a profit.

For example, if Thorp and his eagle-eyed team spotted a warrant price that was lower than it should be (based on the price of the underlying stock), they would swoop in. They’d snatch up these undervalued warrants and sell short the overvalued stocks, raking in a tidy profit.

Of course, he’s not the only great investor who believed in the power of finding undervalued (or overvalued stocks). Legends like Benjamin Graham and the ingenious Warren Buffett have also used the value investing strategy to uncover hidden gems, sniff out junk, and make a fortune.

The Math Behind Pairs Trading

Thorp also embraced a clever pairs trading strategy which involved playing both sides of a coin – going long on one security while going short on another. The beauty of Thorp’s approach? It was designed to cash in on the ebb and flow of prices between two assets. Picture a dance where one partner stumbles, but the other steps in to keep the rhythm intact.

In the same vein, Thorp would place his chips on one stock rising (going long) and the other taking a nosedive (going short). This strategy was his safety net against the whims and caprices of broader market trends.

Let’s bring this to life with a real-world example. Imagine the age-old rivalry between Coca-Cola and PepsiCo, the behemoths of the beverage world. In a sense, their fates are closely intertwined. When one triumphs, the other often takes a hit, as most customers have a clear favorite.

So, in this scenario, if Thorp had a hunch that Coca-Cola’s stock was on an upward trajectory, he’d go long. Simultaneously, if he suspected PepsiCo’s stock was on a downward spiral, he’d go short. This way, he’d have a chance to profit from both the rise and fall of these stocks. It’s a win-win situation.

The Art of Betting: Kelly Criterion

Ed Thorp discovered a goldmine of an investment strategy in the most unexpected place: the blackjack table. He used a formula called the Kelly criterion: it calculates the perfect bet size based on the expected payoff and the odds of winning or losing.

He realized that unlike most casino games, blackjack was vulnerable to the precision of mathematical analysis. That’s why he cleverly applied the Kelly criterion to figure out the perfect bet size.

For instance, if Ed calculated a 5% edge over the house, he would confidently bet 5% of his bankroll. This method allowed Thorp to increase his capital over time steadily. It was a game of patience, precision, and the thrill of knowing that the math was on his side.

But Thorp didn’t limit his genius to just blackjack. He took the Kelly criterion and applied it to investing, creating a hedge fund that used number-crunching strategies similar to his blackjack method.

Armed with the Kelly criterion, Thorp determined the perfect amount to invest in various stocks and bonds based on their predicted return and risk. This strategy was a resounding success, delivering impressive returns that consistently outperformed the market.

The Genius of Long-Term Thinking

In a 2022 interview with Tim Ferriss, Thorp let us in on a secret – he’s still rocking a long-term thinking approach even at the ripe old age of 89.  

Thorp’s golden nugget of advice? Put most of your money into stocks and give these investments a good 15-20 years to mature. In this case, he swears by the 4% rule, which involves spending only 4% of your capital each year and investing the rest in equities. This strategy keeps your money growing indefinitely, helping you build a robust wealth portfolio.

So, take a leaf out of Thorp’s book. Invest. Wait. Grow. And watch your wealth soar to new heights.

The Thorp Effect on Modern Investing

Edward O. Thorp is a name synonymous with revolutionizing the world of gambling and trading. His trailblazing contributions have etched a permanent mark on these industries, forever changing their landscape.

As we know, Thorp’s journey to disrupt the gambling world began with blackjack. He was the first to crack the code, mathematically proving that the house’s advantage could be toppled with card counting. His book, “Beat the Dealer,” didn’t just hit the shelves – it exploded onto the scene, selling over 700,000 copies and flipping the blackjack world on its head. Why was it so legendary? This groundbreaking book was the first to mathematically prove that you could beat the house advantage in blackjack by counting cards.

Of course, he also took his mathematical wizardry to the finance and trading sector, reaping extraordinary profits in the process. His book, “Beat the Market,” co-authored with Sheen T. Kassouf, became a lighthouse for traders navigating the choppy waters of the market.

But there’s more to Thorp’s story than just numbers and strategies. In his memoir, “A Man for All Markets,” Thorp pulls back the curtain, revealing his journey from humble beginnings to the dizzying heights of success in gambling and trading. It’s a tale that’s not just about winning, but also the thrill of the game and the sheer joy of beating the odds.

And as a result of his success, countless traders and investors have been drawn to Thorp’s revolutionary methods. Let’s dive into a few standout examples:

  • Ken Griffin, the mastermind behind Citadel, frequently tips his hat to Thorp, citing him as a guiding light.
  • Warren Buffett, the legendary Oracle of Omaha, didn’t just admire Thorp from afar. He put his money where his mouth was, investing with Thorp himself.
  • Nassim Taleb, the intellectual powerhouse who penned “The Black Swan,” has been vocal in his praise for Thorp’s groundbreaking work.

Thorp’s influence is undeniable, his impact unforgettable. His methods have not only shaped the world of finance but also inspired some of its most influential figures.


Edward Thorp’s groundbreaking strategies have revolutionized the world of trading and investing. His ingenious approaches, including quantitative value investing and pairs trading, have created a trail for many eager students to follow.

By learning from Thorp’s wisdom, you’ll have a blueprint for achieving lasting wealth through game theory and effective hedge fund techniques. So why wait? Plunge into Thorp’s playbook and stride toward financial independence today!

Frequently Asked Questions

Let’s explore some frequently asked questions investors (and gamblers) have about Ed Thorp!

How much money did Edward Thorp make?

Edward Thorp has an estimated net worth of around $800 million.

What did Edward Thorp invent?

Ed Thorp invented the first wearable computer to beat roulette.

Where does Edward Thorp live?

Ed Thorp lives in Chicago, Illinois.

Who invented blackjack card counting?

American mathematician Edward Thorp invented blackjack card counting.

What was the first book on card counting?

Edward Thorp’s book “Beat the Dealer” was the first book on card counting.

Who created the first wearable computer?

Edward Thorp created the first wearable computer.

Does card counting work?

Yes, in theory, card counting works.

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