What I Did on My Summer Vacation: Went to Woodstock. Worked at Mall. Made Millions in Paper Profits.

He was too young to get a summer job on Wall Street, but Harris Kupperman, 18, led more than 9,000 others in <I>TSC's</I> Investment Challenge.
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For a good chunk of July, an 18-year-old kid from Long Island, N.Y., named

Harris Kupperman

was beating the 9,100 other contestants in

TSC's

Investment Challenge. In just four weeks, he had turned $500,000 into $7.6 million, a 1,400% return. At that rate, in a year he'd have $76 quintillion. "I guess that's OK," he says. Actually, it's virtually unheard of. And to think -- this kid couldn't get a summer job on Wall Street this year. He was too young.

Here's the pity: The money he's made isn't real. The Investment Challenge is a game. Participants get $500,000 in fictional money and place fantasy trades. Whoever makes the most out of their half-million by Aug. 20 wins. (The winner gets to spend a day trading alongside

James J. Cramer

.) But the stocks are real, and the rules make the game a lot like the real thing. And Kupperman, who goes through a box of

Lucky Charms

every other day and carries a fake ID so he can get a drink when he goes out in Manhattan, really has no business being better at it than 9,100 people, some of whom do it for a living.

After all, he doesn't even know what the ticker symbols stand for when he's making a trade. "I think it's better that I don't know," he explains. "If you know what it is, you get too attached to it."

He was in first place until late last month, when he went to

Woodstock

, missed two days (but left before Rome burned) and fell back into second place.

Four days later, Kupperman was back in faux-business in the dark den of his parents' house in Brookville, N.Y. The shades were drawn, and the central air-conditioning was purring away. He was watching

CNBC

and listening to

Limp Bizkit

on the stereo. Empty boxes of Lucky Charms were scattered on the floor. And on his computer screen, a

BigCharts

stock scanner identified stocks that were on the move.

He made a trade. The ticker symbol was NTIA (

Netia Holdings

), the price was 22. "I don't really know what the hell it is," he says. "I have no idea. But it hasn't really done anything, so I just sold it because I got bored of looking at it. And I'm short PKTR

Packeteer

. I don't know what that is, either, but it just started moving again."

He trades like a banshee, making as many as 50 trades a day. As a momentum investor, he's a natural.

"I just figured when I grow up I need a job, you know?" he says. "It seems pretty interesting. I'd trade for real if I could get some money together. But I don't have any money to trade. That's my problem."

"I just figured when I grow up I need a job, you know? I'd trade for real if I could get some money together. But I don't have any money to trade. That's my problem." -- Harris Kupperman

He wants someone to give him money, real money. He has a summer job -- at the

Broadway Mall

in Hicksville, N.Y., where he makes six bucks an hour.

He was supposed to be at work on this particular afternoon, trying to persuade shoppers to fill out market research surveys. But it was a slow day at the mall, and he got a call telling him not to bother coming in. So he stayed home to mint his fantasy millions.

His father, an oral surgeon, is behind him all the way. He just persuaded his son to keep a notebook recording trades he would make if he had the money. In three weeks, he's up 20% in the notebook. "That isn't too bad," he says. "But I don't know -- it's not as good as I'm doing in

TheStreet.com

competition. I usually make like 10% or 15% a day."

The old man is boasting about his son to his neighbors and to his buddies at the

Tam O'Shanter Golf Club

in Glen Head, N.Y. Now the golf buddies, many of whom are stock market professionals, are calling young Harris for stock tips. The kid is a star.

Too Young

Last summer, he worked for U.S. Rep. Rick Lazio of Long Island. But this summer, various Washington jobs fell through, and no one on Wall Street would take him. "I called all of them," he says. "They said, 'You're 18?' They laughed and hung up."

He first learned to trade at

Phillips Academy

in Andover, Mass., the boarding school that he graduated from in June. He says there were a half-dozen kids there who spent all of their free time trading stocks on computers in the school library. "They would just sit there at this one bank of computers and daytrade all day," he says.

But Kupperman didn't do any trading himself. He didn't have the cash. He didn't really fit in, either. People made fun of his Long Island accent. "I hated the people there, every last one of them," he says. "They were all really pretentious. A lot of them were out to sabotage each other. Everyone wanted to go to

Harvard

."

He got into

Tulane University

in New Orleans and is headed there in the fall. Now he has just one month left in the last great summer, the summer before college. "Yeah, and I'm stuck on Long Island," he says. "There's nowhere to go. Me and my friends, we usually just get in a car and drive around from one side of the island to the other. We never end up doing anything useful."

He doesn't smoke pot or cigarettes. He doesn't have a girlfriend. He has seen

American Pie

twice and thinks it's the best movie ever. He wants to make a lot of money, then go into politics. He's a Republican -- "probably." He thinks he might change his name someday. "Harris Kupperman: It's not Americanized enough," he says. He likes the name "John Wayne."

He makes another trade, bringing in some of the PKTR stock he'd been short. The stock started going down immediately. "Great," he says. "Just lost a point on that. I've lost like $20,000 today."

It was the middle of the day, in the middle of summer. The market was quiet. He was losing interest, losing ground. "My little brother's around here somewhere," he says. "He wants me to play

Stratego

with him. If the market stays boring, I might just do that instead."

Nick Paumgarten writes for the New York Observer.