Summary of The Setup by Dan Bilzerian

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  • Post last modified:September 18, 2023

Short summary: 4 min

Summary: 20 min

Book reading time: 7h

Score: 9/10

Book published in: 2021

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  • You grow in your life by choosing goals and going after them.
  • The best way to learn something fast is to consume as much knowledge as you can in a short period.
  • Your network = your net worth.

Table of Contents

What The Setup Talks About

The Setup is an autobiography by Instagram playboy Dan Bilzerian. The book is an account of Bilzerian’s childhood and how he went from a nobody to a social media star with dozens of millions of followers. It taught me that the best way to learn something is to consume as much knowledge as you can in a short period of time.

I knew that Dan Bilzerian was writing a book about his life, but I had forgotten about it.

When I connected on Instagram in October 2021, I saw he was throwing parties to launch his book.

So I went on Amazon to buy it and…didn’t find it.

That guy had decided to self-publish only through his website.

I got the book and read the 125 000 words in four days.

Here’s a summary of Dan Bilzerian’s biography, The Setup.

Yes, the name sucks.

The story, though, is one hell of a tale.


Short Summary

Dan was born into a very rich family but never enjoyed the money. His dad went to prison when he was seven, which was a difficult moment for him. He also got bullied at school frequently.

At fifteen, and after moving between Florida and Utah multiple times, Dan decided he had had enough. He joined a gym, became cool, got more friends, and the bullying stopped.

Meanwhile, he was really interested in girls. He noticed that the environment influenced a lot whether he’d have sex with them or not. The more girls there were while the fewer guys there were and the more laid back he was, the more likely he’d get laid.

That was his setup: the environment he created to get laid with girls.

After high school, he joined the military. He tried the SEAL training multiple times but never managed to graduate. At 22 years old, he went to university where he only partied and tried to get laid.

At the same time, his brother introduced him to poker, and Dan got addicted.

He lost all of his money playing online, and nobody would lend him anything.

So he sold a couple of guns and for six days, played poker in a casino.

He made $10k, so he bought a ticket for Vegas and played there straight for 30 days. He made more than $180k.

So he decided to stay in Vegas. Making his way into the poker world, he understood that there was no point playing the big tournaments as people were extremely good there.

The games he sought were the private ones, where rich and bad players were often found.

Dan befriended a few celebrities in casinos and they invited him to these private games. He got to know more and more people and made more and more money.

Rich and powerful people liked to have Dan around because he was entertaining, and there always were girls.

So, how did Dan find girls? He developed an affiliate marketing strategy.

Since he partied a lot, he befriended party promoters who knew everyone in town.

He paid them $1k for each girl they would introduce him to and that he would end up having sex with (and more if she ended up becoming his girlfriend).

So, promoters (who were constantly broke) flooded Bilzerian with models, hoping to make easy money.

Dan soon recruited these girls for his private poker games. Since the girls were always beautiful and the parties were in splendid houses (that Dan got through other connections), everyone wanted to show up to his parties and games.

He made a bunch of money organizing them. When the players were really rich, girls could make up to $30k a night – so more girls wanted to work for Bilzerian.

Dan made most of his money playing poker against two people: billionaire Alec Gore, and millionaire Sam Magid.

The most important thing for Dan was to have more money, more fame, and more girls. So he created an Instagram account that quickly went viral.

The fame brought him more girls, and he started to be invited (and paid) to attend the most exclusive parties.

He hired a videographer to document his lifestyle and his IG account grew to tens of millions.

Then he created the cannabis brand Ignite, moved to one of the biggest houses in the world in LA, and kept on throwing parties, each wilder than the previous one.

It was so exclusive that A-list celebrities struggled to get an invite.

Dan achieved his purpose. He got fame, money, and all of the girls he ever wanted.

Summary of Dan Bilzerian’s Biography The Setup

The book starts in Florida in 1987.

Dan’s dad, Paul Bilzerian, was going to prison.

Paul was a corporate takeover specialist who convinced himself he was operating within the boundaries of the law.

When the judges decided otherwise, they sentenced him to 4 years.

Dan was 7, his brother was 5.

That left a huge mark on Dan.

He was already bullied in school and this event only made the mockery worse.

Originally, no one knew the Bilzerian were rich. They lived way below their means and didn’t own anything flashy.

Dan’s mum was particularly discreet.

That changed when Paul got released after 13 months.

The family moved into a 36 000-square foot mansion and suddenly, everyone was nicer to Dan.


Ernie was the Bilzerian’s neighbor.

While his house was only 25% of that of the Bilzerian’s, he fascinated Dan.

Ernie was different. He liked to spend and show his money. He had an endless stream of people in and out of his house.

He always seemed to have more fun than Dan’s dad, and often had good-looking girls with him despite being of average look.

Watching him, Dan understood that not only money could buy happiness, but that it could buy so much more, like guns and girls, things Dan had always been obsessed with.


As he put it, Dan’s family, particularly his dad, encouraged him to be fearless.

That led to troubles at school and Dan was expelled (while, to his defense, having been diagnosed with ADHD).

Paul sent his son to his brother in Minnesota and paid him $4000/month to take care of him.

Eventually, Dan was expelled again, so his parents sent him to a military boarding school.

Dan became friends with a rich Mexican kid called Pedro. Pedro invited him to spend Thanksgiving in Mexico.

They took the plane and Dan, 14 years old at the time, asked to buy a gun. His friend refused but offered to buy gun powder instead.

They lit it off on a field and excited, started throwing it off the window of the limo in which they were riding.

Eventually, they created an accident and almost killed somebody.

A few days later, bored, Pedro took Dan to a brothel and Dan lost his virginity to a Mexican prostitute…without knowing so.


Dan’s family eventually relocated to Utah.

Dan hated his life there.

His days were spent smoking weed and masturbating to whatever he could find on television.

He was still bullied, had no girlfriends, and got along neither with his brother nor his parents.

His only friend was a cute girl named Chalet.

Dan was in love with her.

Not knowing what to do, he never tried anything with her.

One day, some kids from the neighborhood caught Dan masturbating in his basement, and taped the whole thing.

They threatened Dan to pay them up or they would show the video to everyone and beat him up.

Luckily, Chalet caught them watching the video on camera, stole it, and destroyed the evidence.

Shortly after, the Bilzerian went back to Florida.

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Dan had had enough with the bullying. He began lifting weights and trained to be part of the baseball team.

He made friends and suddenly, he was popular.

Dan was expelled from yet another school and his family moved back to Utah.

He hung out with a group of guys that went to the mall to talk to girls, and Dan tried mushrooms for the first time.

That same year, his dad bought a lot of five houses in Minnesota, so Dan spent the summer there with his friend John, a wrestler.

Minnesota was great. It was full of bikini girls during the summer.

Dan and John would offer the girls to go wakeboarding then go back to the house to drink and smoke.

And that’s how Dan began hooking up with them.

This changed everything.

He understood that getting laid was much easier if the environment was right for it. He understood the importance of a setup.

He noticed that the more he tried to get laid, the less likely it would happen.

But when he simply invited a bunch of girls to do something together, have a good time, and took the pressure off, then the girls were happy to sleep with him.

At the end of the summer, Dan went back to Utah and bragged about the guns in his car on the first day at school.

When the teachers heard it, they called the police who checked the car, and Dan was sentenced to prison.

He stayed 21 days until he made a plea with the state.

He’d get out, but would never be allowed back to Utah.

He went back to Florida and figured out what he wanted.

He wanted to make his dad proud, he wanted to be part of something special, he wanted respect, and he wanted to impress girls.

So, like his dad, he got into the military with the intent to become a Navy Seal.

The Military: Part 1

Dan eventually enlisted in the Navy in preparation for the SEAL training based in San Diego.

When his legs started to hurt, he was diagnosed with bilateral tibial stress fractures and ordered to be put on light duty for 9 months.

That would delay by two years his entry into the SEAL program, so he gave back the crutches and decided to do the SEAL program on broken legs.

At first, the doctor from the program refused, but Dan convinced the captain otherwise.

He began his training and went until the end of hell week.

By then, the pain had become so big he was given some time off, and would pick up training with the next class.

During that time, Dan was supposed to stay on the base despite the fact he was living off base.

When an instructor reported him leaving, he was kicked out of the training.

The Military: Part 2

After he was dropped from the SEAL training, Dan went to Mexico to take steroids. He wanted more muscles and it was the only way he knew how.

He eventually had to report back to the Navy and was sent doing janitor work on an island, then to a ship headed for Japan.

Dan was supposed to be on crutches but the commanding officer wouldn’t let him. When they arrived in Okinawa, he went to see a doctor that ordered a scan of Dan’s legs.

They were broken indeed.

Dan was recommended with a medical retirement and rested four months in Okinawa before running for the SEAL again.

Obviously, he was refused.

On paper, Dan was on limited duty, permanently disabled to the point he couldn’t perform regular duty, and scheduled to be medically discharged.

But he wanted to do it. While his dad advised against it, he made a couple of phone calls, and Dan was admitted back into the program.

Doing it a second time was easier because he knew what to expect.

Halfway through, Dan was called into the office. His dad was back in prison, and the Feds were offering Dan to get him out if he gave them 33% of his and his brother’s trust fund.

Prior to Paul’s first stay in prison, the fund was worth $96 million.

When Dan handed it off to the Feds, it was only worth $10 million.

He signed, and Paul got out.

Dan’s $3 million eventually dipped to $1 million, and he sold it all in 2020.

The end of the SEAL training eventually came.

36 hours away from graduation, Dan was suddenly woken up by the instructors.

He had slept through a drill.

He was expelled from the training and given a choice: coming back after a year, or coming back after 4 months.

Broken, ashamed, and depressed, he chose the latter.

A few weeks into this new training, he was once again pulled aside.

The officers wanted to drop him, this time without any reason.

Dan didn’t fit. He couldn’t respect the guidelines, and the SEALs wanted discipline.

Dan understood they would never let him graduate.

So he gave up.

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Four years after joining the Navy, Bilzerian was honorably discharged.

Since he was considered 60% disabled, he got free medical care for life, free education, and almost $5000 a month of retirement money.

So he joined university.

The first semester, Dan had sex with 13 girls. He had friends, was popular, and was in good shape.

His time had finally come.

He noticed how great house parties were when there was a higher women/men ratio.

There were plenty of bedrooms and bathrooms to have sex, girls were provided with an excuse to dress lightly (theme parties) and the alcohol and weed worked great as a social lubricant.

The setup was perfect.


Seeing the money Dan was making out of this retirement, Dan’s brother Adam decided to teach him poker.

Dan got quickly addicted. At the end of his first year at university, he was playing up to 10 online games at once.

His style was aggressive, and throughout his second year, he lost all of his money.

Completely addicted, no one wanted to lend him anything.

He sold a couple of guns and other possessions and managed to get $750 for “one last shot”. He took it to a casino and decided he would not stop until he reached $10k – or go broke.

It took him six days.

At the end of his marathon, he figured he was ready. He bought a ticket to Vegas and went playing at the Bellagio.

He played 16 hours a day for a month.

Thanks to the Internet, other players assumed he was rich due to his father’s fortune, and he got to play with people that had a lot of money.

After 30 days, he had made $187 000.

It was more money than he had ever seen.

It felt so good that he wanted more.

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