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Hedging Stress

Cigars Ease the Tension for the Big Dogs on Chicago's Futures Exchanges
Alejandro Benes
From the Print Edition:
Pierce Brosnan, Nov/Dec 97

(continued from page 6)

"I can watch the markets and what I'm doing," Friedman says. "I can play Trivial Pursuit on-line on the Internet while I'm watching my positions." Even though his office is designated a no-smoking area, Friedman and his co-conspirators have thus far avoided detection. "What we've resorted to is moving the ceiling tile to try and let the smoke escape," Friedman says.

Traders have become expert at finding different ways to relieve stress. While Zawaski spends time at the racetrack, plays golf and has nice lunches and cigars at the Four Seasons, others stay closer to the exchange, crowding into the Off-Track Betting parlor at the corner of Jackson and Franklin. They are looking for action at all times, but don't necessarily want to watch the horses run. Many traders will simply relax at private clubs like the Union League Club, on West Jackson, with its soothing art collection, or the CME Club, at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, on South Wacker and Monroe.

"Eleven years ago," says Donna Kozak, the former manager of the CME Club, "I don't remember one cigar in here. Five years ago it really picked up." The CME Club allows cigar smoking in the bar, but if more than four people are lighting up, the club moves them to a private room.

No such problem at the LaSalle Club. Located at the same address as the CBOE, the LaSalle Club is a luxurious haunt with state-of-the-art workout facilities, saunas, lap pool with dim lighting, racquetball courts, basketball, aerobics--the whole deal. The hotel has 19 rooms (three of them suites), a cigar lounge and Everest, reputedly one of the two best restaurants in Chicago.

"You'll find that 90 percent of these guys that are here at the club," managing director Richard Gaylord says, "work hard and they play hard. It's kind of unique because they work out hard and then they'll go back and have a great brandy and a cigar. The beauty of it is location. You can walk up here. It's private. We push privacy and exclusivity."

Gaylord, a cigar smoker, says that the club's bar and restaurant, The Buckingham Grill, sells about $1,500 worth of cigars a month. A cabinet humidor separates the bar from the dining room. The bar has a ceiling-high, arch-shaped window looking out onto the Congress Parkway. The place is busy after the close of trading on that particular Wednesday. "Obviously the bad day on the floor is better in the bar," Gaylord offers.

"I guess sometimes before I can do this, I'll go work out," says Rob Schmidt, 35, who trades S&P 500 index options and is sitting in the bar smoking an Avo Pyramid, his favorite, and drinking a Booker's Bourbon on the rocks. Schmidt gets to the gym about 4:30 in the afternoon. He'll work out and make it to the bar by six.

"Then I go home," he puffs. "I find myself a much better husband and father. After this ritual, I know they [wife and children] see a big difference [from when] I come home straight from the trading floor."

Schmidt, like many other traders who've been at it a few years, does not exactly fit the stereotype of the fast-living trader. "I would say that traders have a reputation for liking some of the richer things in life. I would say that leads rather more to cigars and great liquor and all kinds of great entertainment," Schmidt notes, adding that many of his colleagues incorporate that good life with their families.

Paul Johnson, 39, who likes Avo No. 3 and Pleiades, agrees with Schmidt, but points out that the reputation is drawn from younger traders, noting that about 80 percent of those who try to make it as traders don't last. If they last, they usually settle down.

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