The Antisocial Network

The GameStop Short Squeeze and the Ragtag Group of Amateur Traders That Brought Wall Street to Its Knees


By Ben Mezrich

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Named a Best Book of the Year by New York Post!

From one of our most innovative and celebrated authors, the definitive take on the wildest story of the year— the David-vs.-Goliath GameStop short squeeze, a tale of fortunes won and lost overnight that may end up changing Wall Street forever.

Bestselling author Ben Mezrich offers a gripping, beat-by-beat account of how a loosely affiliate group of private investors and internet trolls on a subreddit called WallStreetBets took down one of the biggest hedge funds on Wall Street, firing the first shot in a revolution that threatens to upend the establishment.

It’s the story of financial titans like Gabe Plotkin of hedge fund Melvin Capital, one of the most respected and staid funds on the Street, billionaires like Elon Musk, Steve Cohen, Mark Cuban, Robinhood co-CEOs Vlad Tenev and Baiju Bhatt, and Ken Griffin of Citadel Securities. Over the course of four incredible days, each in their own way must reckon with a formidable force they barely understand, let alone saw coming: everyday men and women on WallStreetBets like nurse Kim Campbell, college student Jeremy Poe, and the enigmatic Keith “RoaringKitty” Gill, whose unfiltered livestream videos captivated a new generation of stock market enthusiasts.

The unlikely focus of the battle: GameStop, a flailing brick-and-mortar dinosaur catering to teenagers and outsiders that had somehow held on as the world rapidly moved online. At first, WallStreetBets was a joke—a meme-filled, freewheeling place to share shoot-the-moon investment tips, laugh about big losses, and post diamond hand emojis. Until some members noticed an opportunity in GameStop—and rode a rocket ship to tens of millions of dollars in earnings overnight.

In thrilling, pulse-pounding prose, THE ANTISOCIAL NETWORK offers a fascinating, never-before-seen glimpse at the outsize personalities, dizzying swings, corporate drama, and underestimated American heroes and heroines who captivated the nation during one of the most volatile weeks in financial history. It’s the amazing story of what just happened—and where we go from here.


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Author's Note

The Antisocial Network is a dramatic, narrative account of one of the most unique moments in Wall Street history, based on dozens of interviews, multiple first-person sources, hours of testimony, and thousands of pages of documents, including records from a number of court proceedings. Though there are different and often contentious opinions about some of the events in the story, to the best of my ability, I re-created the scenes in the book based on the information I uncovered. Some dialogue has been re-created. In some instances, certain descriptions and character names have been altered at the request of my sources to protect privacy.

Although, over the years, I have spent many hours browsing the aisles of my local GameStop—I was, after all, a video game junkie during my twenties, came of age in the era of Pac-Man and Donkey Kong, and have an eleven-year-old who can name every character in Fortnite and Roblox—I can honestly say that I never expected to write a book that revolved around the company or, at least, the company's stock. Like many people around the world—trapped at home during the height of the pandemic—I watched the market turmoil that came to a head the week of January 25, 2021, with a mixture of amazement and amusement. There was no question that something dramatic was happening: a David versus Goliath story involving a ragtag group of amateur investors, gamers, and Internet trolls taking on one of the biggest hedge funds on Wall Street. But it wasn't until I delved deeper into the story that I began to think that it was also something significant; that what we were all seeing, from our quarantine couches and our masked-up, socially distanced perches, was the first shot in a revolution—one that threatens to upend the financial establishment as we know it.

The deeper I looked, the more I believed—the battle that drove the price of a single share of GameStop to a premarket high of $500 on January 28 had origins that dated back to Occupy Wall Street and beyond, when an anger toward big banks and the havoc wreaked in the last economic meltdown bubbled up into largely impotent protests and sit-ins. At the same time, the rise of GME could also be seen as the culmination of a populist movement that began with the intersection of social media and the growth of simplified, democratizing financial portals—tech that weakened the old-world pillars propping up the financial establishment, represented by the biggest upstart in the business, Robinhood, and its millions of mostly millennial devotees.

What seems certain, to me, is that this first, revolutionary shot—fired directly at Wall Street, if not from Main Street, from the basement of an amateur trader a few blocks away—is only the beginning. Those old-world pillars—protecting the suits and ties from the rabble outside—no longer seem so firm. A sea change has begun, right alongside the crypto revolution, with very similar philosophical implications.

It's impossible to know where this change will lead; how Wall Street will respond, whether what has now been unleashed by social media can even be contained. But historically, revolutions fed by anger tend to go in the same direction. At some point, once the pillars start to shake, the walls inevitably fall.

Part One

There's deep value, then there's deep
fucking value.

—Keith Gill

Chapter One

Eight minutes past four in the afternoon.

A glass-walled office on the twenty-second floor of a skyscraper on Madison Avenue. Desolate, vacant, the lights dimmed, the empty trading desks lined up and lifeless, like high-tech terra-cotta soldiers, chairs pushed in, and Bloomberg terminals dark. A place that, one year earlier, would have been brimming with activity; the pulsing, beating heart at the center of one of the most powerful and successful hedge funds in the world. Now, quiet—along with all the other offices in all the other skyscrapers in the pincushion that was New York.

Twelve hundred miles away, tethered to that slumbering core by a somehow still functioning circulatory system of cell towers, satellites, and fiber-optic cables, Gabe Plotkin's world was coming to an end.

This can't be happening.

His tailored Oxford shirt was soaked through, and his tie felt like a noose around his neck, shifting up and down with each exaggerated throb of his rapidly accelerating pulse. His jacket was already off, draped over a corner of his chair, but it didn't make any difference. If he had been at his desk in that office on Madison Avenue, instead of lodged in an extra bedroom in his rented pandemic home in Florida, it would have been thirty degrees outside the picture window behind him—the kind of view generally reserved for Wall Street bankers, still staggering despite the sparse traffic snaking through the pincushion of Midtown and between the Covid-emptied sidewalks—and he'd have turned the heat as far down as it would go.

But here in Florida, the rivulets of sweat ran down the back of his neck and dampened the seams of his brightly patterned socks.


Gabe's eyes watered as he stared at the computer screen in front of him. The chart on the screen was inconceivable—and yet, there it was, a daggered mountain that rose like Everest where no mountain should have existed. Even as he watched, seconds ticking away at the bottom of the screen, charting the first few minutes of after-hours trading on an otherwise unremarkable Tuesday afternoon—that mountain was growing right in front of his eyes, exponentially, steeper and steeper, threatening to burst right out of the top of the goddamn screen.


Gabe leaned back against his chair, bewildered. He'd seen trades go south before; hell, he'd been in the business long enough to know that the truly successful firms were defined by how they dealt with failed positions, not how they celebrated when things went right. Like any good trader, he'd learned that lesson the hard way.

Fourteen years ago, Gabe had been a fresh hire at Steve Cohen's S.A.C. Capital Advisers—at the time one of Wall Street's most storied financial behemoths, $16 billion under management. The highest-returning hedge fund of its era—before becoming embroiled in an insider trading scandal in 2013. At S.A.C., Gabe had spent the first half of 2007 on a meteoric run, turning a $450 million bankroll into a $1 billion treasure chest, marking him as one of the hottest traders on the street. S.A.C. had begun handing him more and more money to invest—when just as suddenly, Gabe's positions had teetered and crashed. By the end of that summer, he'd lost 80 percent of his investments. It had been an existential moment—many traders would have packed it in. But Gabe had been resilient. He'd picked himself up, wiped the blood from his nose, put a frozen steak against his bruised and beaten eyes. He'd learned to rely on his process, continually reassessing his positions in a rapidly changing environment. By the end of that year, he'd made back every penny he'd lost, and then some.

Over the next six years, he'd grown into one of the top traders at S.A.C. In the fallout of the SEC investigation that had turned S.A.C. inside out—leaving Steve Cohen himself mostly untouched but sending a couple of his traders to prison—it had come time for Gabe to open up his own shop. He'd promptly raised $1 billion, part of it from Cohen's new manifestation, Point72, and after that, Gabe had never looked back. He'd built a diverse team of the right people, who could trade at the highest levels, humble but willing to work hard.

Eight years later, Melvin Capital was now one of the brightest lights on the Street. From its inception in 2014, Melvin had achieved annual returns of 30 percent all the way through 2020; in 2020, the firm was up 52.5 percent net. Gabe's star had gone supernova; he'd personally earned, reportedly, over $800 million last year alone, and was rapidly collecting the accoutrements of his growing station at the top of the banking hegemony. There was the minority ownership in a professional sports team, the Charlotte Hornets, which made him partners with Michael Jordan—Michael Jordan!—one of his childhood idols. A lavish apartment on the East Side, and of course, there was even the Miami waterfront mansion. Actually, the one mansion hadn't been big enough, so he'd bought two mansions next to each other for $44 million, intending to knock one down to make room for a tennis court, a cabana, and a kids' playground. The place had come complete with a private dock, which meant Gabe would certainly need a boat, because what good was a dock without a boat? For that matter, what self-respecting hedge fund titan with $13 billion under management didn't have a boat?

But staring at the screen and that digital Everest spiking upward, pixel after nauseating pixel, thoughts of palaces in Miami, pickup basketball games with Michael Jordan, and pitifully boatless private docks were far from Gabe's mind.

What he was seeing wasn't possible, and yet it was unmistakable: despite all logic and reason, despite months of intense research, despite many soul-crushing hours spent sifting through financial reports and on phone calls with analysts and experts—he was about to be handed the biggest loss of his career.

A loss so large, it might destroy everything he had built—and bigger than that, Gabe worried, it would sound an alarm bell that would clang through all of Wall Street, with ramifications that would be felt for years to come.

Gabe's Melvin Capital, which he'd named after his grandfather, a convenience store owner, one of the most honest, hardworking men he'd ever known—had reportedly lost nearly $5 billion in a matter of days—much of it in the last twenty-four hours. All of it because of what began with a single stock of a company that was almost too ludicrous to name. A stock that should have been crashing, but instead was flying through the roof.

Gabe, one of the most powerful men on Wall Street, had just been bested by some unseen force. Something, he would soon learn, that was growing in the deepest, darkest corners of social media—a revolution, firing its very first shot across the establishment's bow. And perhaps the biggest indignity of it all—the coup de grâce had been delivered by a single tweet just minutes ago, from the biggest troll on the entire Internet.

Gabe closed his eyes. Thoughts of boats, Jordan, Miami flickered and tangled up like images on a strip of film that had come unhoused from the projector. He took a deep breath and turned the computer off.

Then he reached for his phone.

Chapter Two

Six weeks earlier and four hundred miles away, Jeremy Poe, twenty-two years old and built like a wire hanger that had been untangled and extended to break in through the crease in the window of a locked car, stood by himself at an institutional-style metal table at the front of the vast Presidential Ballroom of the Washington Duke Inn and Golf Club, wondering how in the hell it had all come to this.

The only thing he knew for sure was that this wasn't what his senior year of college was supposed to be like. He'd seen all the movies, read all the brochures. Senior year was supposed to be barhopping and keg parties, class dances, maybe a romance or two, afternoons hanging out on the Quad, and bull sessions in his dorm room that went on all night, until the morning light streamed in through his window and his alarm went off, telling him he was late for class—but who cared, really, because it was senior year, the last gasp before college ended and the real world came roaring in.

Instead, he was standing in a gigantic ballroom along with a dozen of his classmates, lined up in staggered, socially distanced lines beneath elegant chandeliers dripping teardrops of crystal. Each kid, like him, waiting for a turn at that frighteningly sterile steel table cluttered with vials, specimen bottles, and sanitizing lotion.

There was a nurse a few feet away, watching Jeremy with eyes that might have been blue, but just as easily could have been green. At least Jeremy thought she was a nurse; she was wearing a mask and a face shield and rubber gloves, but then again, so were a lot of people inside the ballroom, and also out on campus and in the streets of Durham and, for that matter, on TV and in the newspapers and just about everywhere else. High fashion in the age of Covid. But this woman also had on scrubs, which meant she probably knew what she was doing. And despite the way the light from the chandeliers splashed obscuring patterns across her face shield, Jeremy could see the impatience in her blue or green or blue-green eyes.

Jeremy offered an apologetic smile as he readied himself for the task ahead. He wasn't wearing a face shield, and his own mask was down under his chin—but only because of the thing he held in his right hand. Six inches long and topped with an evil-looking wisp of cotton. A cruel twist on the party skewer, and to Jeremy's thinking, this was about as far from a party as a college senior could get.

At least the ballroom itself was mildly festive; the carpet beneath his feet was lush and ornately patterned in reds and blues, and there were thick velvet drapes surrounding the many windows that looked out onto one of North Carolina's premier golf courses. And of course, there were those chandeliers, sprouting from the ridiculously high ceiling like frozen, sparkly jellyfish, glistening tendrils waving in the breeze from the specially designed air circulators that had been set around the perimeter of the room.

"Nothing to it," the nurse said, her voice muffled by her mask. "Just stick it in your nostril, give it a few turns, and leave it in the specimen container on the table."

Jeremy tried to think of something witty to say back, but then decided that the moment wasn't right. It was hard to be suave when you were about to stick something up your nose. Sure, this was better than the test they used to use, back in the spring before the campus had shut down when Covid first hit. That damn swab had been twice as long and had seemed to go right up into your brain.

Truth be told, Jeremy was usually pretty good at small talk and making people laugh; he probably would have had a chance of at least getting a positive reaction out of the nurse if he had been holding a cocktail skewer instead of a nostril-bound swab. Then again, though he wasn't shy, he was quirky, with an idiosyncratic personality; although he'd made a few good friends over his first three years at Duke, he had really been looking forward to senior year to build on that social framework, bust out in a bigger way.

When he thought about it, he knew the quirkiness wasn't entirely his fault. His upbringing had been, in a word, unique. Not a lot of kids could say they'd grown up on a boat, bouncing along the coast of Florida when he wasn't zigzagging between various Caribbean islands. For much of his childhood, his morning commute had involved tide charts and docking fees, and his only real companions had been his family—his dad and mom and his younger brother, Casper. You didn't gain many normal social skills on a 44-foot catamaran, and by the time he'd hit junior high and entered a regular school, he'd already developed some eccentric habits. But he'd put in a lot of work on his personality since then and gotten much of his anxieties and social awkwardness under control.

Still, under the most ideal of circumstances, it was always hard breaking the ice with strangers, and this particular circumstance was far from ideal. At the moment, the best he could manage was an amiable smile.

He couldn't tell if the nurse smiled back, because of the mask, but he took it for a win. Then he turned his attention back to the swab, stuck it in his nose, and gave it a confident twist.

*  *  *

Twenty minutes later, Jeremy's nostril was still stinging as he shook the remnants of a hard drizzle from his hooded sweatshirt, kicking his sneakers off in the foyer of his economical one-bedroom, off-campus apartment. The Dunworthy Pines, a sprawling complex of multistory residences on the south side of Durham, wasn't anywhere near as flashy as its name, which made Jeremy think of a daytime soap opera—pretty people playing out dramatic storylines while congregating in bikinis and Speedos around a lavish communal swimming pool. But it wasn't entirely awful. There was indeed a swimming pool, and even a man-made lake, both of which Jeremy could have seen through the sliding glass doors on the far end of his living room if the shades hadn't been currently drawn. And the grounds around the lake were fairly manicured, a maze of low bushes and pruned trees crisscrossed by cobbled and stone paths designed for walking. Though the Pines was teeming with college kids who, like Jeremy, had opted to avoid the cramped accommodations of the college's main campus, there wasn't any congregating going on, at least that he was aware of. It was mostly strangers sharing hallways, everyone hiding behind masks and invisible six-foot repulsion fields, doing their damned best to keep to themselves.

When Jeremy had first arrived on campus, he'd been pretty lonely—which was saying a lot for a kid who'd grown up on a boat. But then at his father's urging, he'd taken the initiative to create a bubble with a few of his classmates who happened to live in the same complex. Karl, two floors above Jeremy, was one of his best friends at Duke, a biology major and martial arts hobbyist who taught Jeremy both how to wrestle and how to better maintain a healthy lifestyle, helping him keep himself physically fit despite how focused he was on academics. Karl's girlfriend, Josie, who was a better wrestler than either Jeremy or Karl, studied applied math and political science. And a third classmate, Michael, whom Jeremy had met in his advanced linear algebra class, happened to share Jeremy's double major—math and psychology—which meant they had a joint penchant for making themselves miserable, coupled with a drive to figure out why they were chasing said misery. Between Jeremy's bubble, which got together twice a week, and his course load, which included such mouthfuls as Bayesian statistics, probabilistic machine learning, and the cinema of psychopathology, it was almost possible to forget that the outside world had come to a grinding halt.

Jeremy yanked his hood back as he moved deeper into his apartment, freeing his tangled mop of reddish hair, which sprang up above his high forehead like some sort of demented, rust-colored halo. He hadn't been to a barber since before Covid, though he had tried to take clippers to himself a handful of times over the past few months, to his own detriment. Then again, one of the benefits of a pandemic was that it didn't really matter how you looked, when most of your social life took place through a little square floating around the screen of your laptop. Zoom was the great equalizer, and a good, high-definition webcam beat a proper haircut every time.

Jeremy moved deeper into his apartment, pulling his cell phone out of his pocket as he went. A little green light on a speaker planted halfway up a set of bookshelves that separated the foyer from the living area told him the magic of Bluetooth was already two steps ahead of him, and with a flick of a finger, he coaxed the music app on his phone to life.

As usual, his playlist was cued up to his favorite song, and the first hyperkinetic chords of some seriously frenetic Japanese pop spiraled out at him from the speaker, like explosive ringlets of invisible, electronic confetti. Kanako Itō, of course, because for the past year or so it was almost always Kanako Itō. Her real name was Itō Kanako—in Japanese they put the last name first—one of the many things Jeremy had learned as his love for anime and, specifically, for a series called Neon Genesis Evangelion, had ballooned into a near obsession. Jeremy had consumed Evangelion in one marathon sitting after he'd been introduced to the mid-nineties Japanese TV production by a well-traveled cousin. The plot of the anime series—which had included manga, movies, and video games, on top of the twenty-six original episodes—was incredibly complex, involving a global apocalypse, enormous bio-robots battling even bigger monsters, mysticism, Judeo-Christian imagery, and lots of teenage angst. The series was made even more impenetrable by the fact that Jeremy had watched it all the first time through in the original Japanese, which he didn't speak; but even so, he had concluded that it was an absolute masterpiece, and he'd often posited that it was, in fact, a miracle that something that good had ever been made. He'd spent many hours trying to decode the story and its themes using every Internet source at his disposal—a journey that had led him even deeper into anime, where he'd discovered countless more series such as Kaguya-sama: Love Is War, Kiki's Delivery Service, and the Science Adventure series of visual novels, including Steins;Gate and Robotics;Notes, the latter of which he had binged—the whole forty hours' worth—in three or four days.

From the anime, it had been a short hop to the music; Kanako Itō, Kikuo, pop, and metal. At the end of his junior year, while writing a paper on algebraic number theory, he'd listened to a single Japanese metal album fifteen times in a row over the course of a week, during which he'd taken repeated breaks to dance, letting the music move him like a puppet to get his creative juices flowing.

At the moment, as he crossed his apartment toward the desk in the corner by the glass back doors, where his laptop computer waited, he wasn't dancing; but he did have his Neon Genesis Evangelion T-shirt on under his hoodie, and there was at least one book of manga on the desk's glass-and-chrome top by the laptop's keyboard.

The desk itself—shiny, sheer, glossy, with retractable legs and way too many wheeled feet—could have doubled for a mechanized battle robot in a pinch; Jeremy's brother, Casper, had put the damn thing together when Jeremy had first moved into the apartment. It was something that would have taken Jeremy a few days to accomplish, but Casper had finished the job in a short afternoon. Casper had always been the more practical minded of the pair, which was probably why he had chosen to major in civil engineering, while Jeremy had taken the more theoretical route. Which meant that although they were both focused on mathematics at the same university, separated only by two years, they'd barely crossed paths even before the pandemic.

Unlike Jeremy and despite Covid, Casper had chosen to experience his sophomore year from a dorm room on campus because he'd wanted to be closer to his friends. From what Jeremy had gleaned from the first few weeks of the fall semester—a barrage of quarantines, weekly testings, social distancing requirements—it didn't seem like Casper would have it much better than Jeremy, as isolated as he was. It hadn't taken long for Jeremy to realize—whether it was in a dorm surrounded by classmates, or in an apartment surrounded by strangers—a pandemic was something you went through alone.

As he lowered himself into the chair in front of his desk, he yanked his mask from his chin and tossed it toward a nearby garbage can. He missed by a good yard, the flicker of crumpled medical-grade paper landing next to a pile of dirty clothes. Sooner or later he'd cart the pile down to the shared laundry room in the basement of his complex; who knows, maybe he'd get lucky and someone would be at one of the other machines. Maybe he would have a conversation in person—an activity he vaguely remembered, involving a real interchange of thoughts turned into words, thoughts that might even have nothing to do with coronaviruses or the proper use of PPE or testing rituals, thoughts communicated without the use of computer software or a wireless router.

He smiled at the idea, then began to hit keys on his laptop, powering up the sleeping screen. To his right, beyond the collection of manga, stood an imposing stack of math textbooks, most with titles that would have terrified anyone he'd meet in a laundry room, even at a university like Duke. Next to the books, a pad of yellow-lined paper—the first few pages of which were already filled with the beginnings of a problem set that had been assigned even before school had returned to session. But at the moment, as his fingers danced across the keyboard, his thoughts were not on his homework, or the anime, or even friendly, imaginary strangers in equally imaginary, Covid-free conversations in less-than-imaginary laundry rooms.

Instead, his focus was on the laptop, which, since the start of his senior year, had pretty much become the center of his universe. Not just because it was where he would soon be attending his classes, and conducting much of his socializing. Apart from school and his existing network of friends and family, he'd recently discovered a new endeavor, which was taking up more and more of his time. An interest that had started as a curiosity had progressed to something of a hobby, and was rapidly becoming another of his obsessions, right alongside his passions for anime, Japanese pop, and anxiety-inducing introspection.


  • "Mezrich mans the conveyor belt at the factory that turns raw reality into its eventual slick cinematic depiction."—New York Times
  • "Mr. Mezrich, the author of bestsellers on topics ranging from the origins of Facebook to beating the odds at Las Vegas, tells the story of GameStop through the eyes of an array of characters, especially small investors who had little or no previous experience in the stock market."—Wall Street Journal
  • "The David vs. Goliath-esque GameStop short squeeze of Winter 2021 was undoubtedly one of the most entertaining stories of the year, and Mezrich brings new life to the whole thing in this look at the outrageous personalities and corporate drama that fueled it."—The New York Post
  • "Mezrich can conjure a scene so vivid that you not only feel like you know the people on the page, but feel as if you’re in the room with them."—Porchlight
  • "A talented storyteller."—New York Times
  • "The reigning cowboy of creative nonfiction."—The Oregonian
  • "Mezrich's prose has a cinematic flavor."—Boston Globe
  • "Mezrich brings his characteristic cinematic flair... A number of characters come to life... the most page-turning part of the tale. This is a thrilling and comprehensive account."—Publishers Weekly

On Sale
May 24, 2022
Page Count
304 pages

Ben Mezrich

About the Author

Ben Mezrich is the New York Times bestselling author of The Accidental Billionaires (adapted by Aaron Sorkin into the David Fincher film The Social Network), Bringing Down the House (adapted into the #1 box office hit film 21), The Antisocial Network, and many other bestselling books. His books have sold over six million copies worldwide.

Learn more about this author