2019 Stock Picking Contest: Final Results


We have a winner! The ABL 2019 Stock Picking Contest has finished, and Ian Bezek is our champ.

(If you’re curious about the contest and are woefully short of entertainment options, you can read about the 2019 contest here and peruse the Q1, Q2, and Q3 updates.)

Ian crushed his enemies, saw them driven before him, and heard the lamentations of their women. He delivered a stunning 71% return in a year that saw the S&P 500 go just north of 30%. One could conclude that Ian is a truly superior investor, except for the fact that he seems to be hiding under the covers and avoiding the new 2020 contest. 

As for the rest of our entrants, they were all beat soundly by children.

That’s right, your stock picking contest medal stand is occupied by Ian, a 9 year old, and a 12 year old.

Let’s look at the results:


First Place: Ian Bezek

I could go into a detailed review of Ian’s trades and strategy, but it’d be a bit much for the casual reader. The best way to summarize his results is that he made some impressive punts on short positions for significant early gains. Timidity won’t win you a stock picking contest, and Ian knew it: he parlayed his winnings into additional trades and kept active to the end. He ended with a total of 54 trades, which I believe led the field. Was he lucky or good? Time will tell.

Second Place: Super Little Paul

My youngest son only made 6 buys at the beginning of the year: 

  • Amazon (AMZN) – of course
  • Southwest Airlines (LUV) – “the best airline”
  • Microsoft (MSFT) – “I’ve heard of them”
  • Netflix (NFLX) – one of his top entertainment providers
  • Nestlé (NSRGY) – he likes DiGiorno pizza
  • Target (TGT) – the best place to buy Legos

Target in particular was a beast, almost doubling during the year. Interestingly, I also thought Target would be a great performer in 2019. I cashed out my much more modest gains about mid-year. I think there’s a lesson there.

My son went from 5th in the 2018 contest to #2 for 2019 with a return over 40%. Will 2020 be his year for top honors? He’ll need to start trading. I tried to encourage him and he said, “Let’s just buy the same companies again.” I patted him on the head and said they may not do as well this year, but then he asked me, “And what place did you come in?” Touché.

Third Place: Little Paul

Any guesses on what interests my eldest son? Here are his 5 buys for the contest:

  • Activision (ATVI)
  • Nintendo (NTDOY)
  • Papa John’s (PZZA)
  • Tencent Holdings Limited – owns publisher Epic of Fortnite fame (TCEHY)
  • Walmart (WMT)

That extremely sophisticated strategy was good for +36% and bronze in the contest.

Lessons Learned

So wild man Ian and two little kids beat the market and thrashed the rest of the competition.

But to honor our abilities as a group, let’s at least profile everyone else who beat the market. Oh wait, no one else did. The lesson, I believe, is that picking stocks is hard.

Another lesson from the 2019 contest is that Nelson is now officially smarter than PK. I always feel bad to find myself in the middle of their conflict, but I’m just the messenger.

My own entry trifled with OK-ness for a little while as I timed some shorts with a downturn, but in the end my frenetic trading (42 trades) left me smack in the middle of the pack. Some of my gambles paid off, but many didn’t. Let’s call that lesson, when you swing for the fences, you often strike out.

My dog Bamble (RIP) may have been the best dog ever, but he apparently wasn’t much of a stock picker. Or that’s what you might conclude looking at his 2018 and 2019 records, but since his methodology favored small and mid cap companies, I think his poor performance is more a reflection that large caps (and, in fact, just a small number of Godzilla-sized companies) have ruled the day for much of this bull market. I’m old enough to predict that won’t always be the case. Since Bamble was my proxy for a “monkey throwing darts portfolio”, I’ll need to find a replacement for him in the 2020 contest. Stay tuned!

And finally, let’s consider our last place finisher, Mr. Smith. He couldn’t even make money in a wild bull market, and he was beat by a dog. Before you start giggling, though, remember: he won the 2018 contest. Another reminder that picking stocks is hard.

Thanks to everyone who played in the contest. 

The 2020 contest is up and running and open to all, but entries will close in the next few days. I’ve tried to invite everyone from 2019, and newcomers are also welcome. Let me know in the comments if you’re interested, and I’ll send you the invite.

2 thoughts on “2019 Stock Picking Contest: Final Results”

  1. Hi Paul!!

    Thanks for organizing and taking care of the contest. The fight for the first of the rest (4th) was really nice. By the end, I performed better here than in real life (return of ~26% if I’m not mistaken).

    I have not decided yet the portfolio for 2020. Probably pick some of the same as last year and some bets.

    All the best.


    1. Many thanks Odysseus.

      Yes, you were consistently moving up the table throughout the year – if the contest continued, I think you would have challenged for the lead. Nicely done!

      I look forward to seeing your picks for this year. Getting investing ideas is one of the nice side benefits of this contest 🙂 And waiting to trade is not always bad – I’ve already lost a good deal already!

      Thanks again and good luck

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