Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Investing process with a story illustration

I will not be in HG HQ after 8 until noon on business. Before I left, I wanted to tell a story that may highlight a few issues about the investing process that I discussed in boring detail just as it related to bonds in an earlier post.

A young man was seated at a blackjack table at a Lake Tahoe casino. He was just glad that it was not winter and his meeting was in about an hour which was not way past the young man's bedtime. For this young man was in reality an old man in training. The last time that he was in Tahoe on business the snow just kept falling until there had to be 10 feet on the ground. He thought to himself that he had not seen that much snow in his entire life even if you piled all of the snowfalls into one giant heap.

He did not actually go outside and measure the snow, but just eyeballed it from the safety of his window, wondering whether he would be there for the remainder of the winter and he had to be back in Nashville by early the following week.

The young man was a gambler, then about 30, but not a card gambler. He knew however what many players of blackjack would call the basic strategy. He thought that he would play for an hour until the 10 P.M. meeting, hopefully play the house even, walk away without a tax event occurring, and then go about his business. (possibly the young man, now much older, is the only Tennessean that reports small winnings from the Tennessee Lottery and blackjack on his tax return).

Shortly after seating down, a much older man, overweight as judged by the thinner and much better looking old young man seated to his left, sat down at the table with a lot of chips, not $25 chips, but $500 chips. Part of the young man's business was to size people up quickly, and his first reaction was that this was a fool with money.

This was a judgment reached by the serious younger man based on the totality of circumstances.

The demeanor was a dead give away as well as the banter that he engaged in with the young woman standing next to him with a low cut dress and platinum blonde hair whose shared intimacy at the table was how shall I say more cuddly than a husband and wife. The man did have a wedding ring. And, he was playing for $500 in an inebriated state with the waitresses anxious to ply him with more free drinks.

After watching him play a few hands, the young man knew that those chips would soon find another owner and just wondered if the young lady was wondering if he had more cash back in the room. The man was playing high stakes blackjack in an inebriated state distracted by a working girl with at best a limited knowledge of the basic blackjack strategy and what he did know was frequently wrong. Then, without warning, he would split a pair of face cards, place another $500 on the table, say some gibberish like I know that I am not supposed to do that, and then win the hand as the dealer managed to bust. This caused the younger man to just exchange a knowing glance with the dealer.

Before the time for the meeting, within sixty minutes, the gambler had lost about $10,000. I wonder if the young woman was impressed. Versions of that event had been witnessed many times, somewhat similar to the novices who sank money into internet stocks back in 2000.

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