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Book Smarts

I receive emails from Full Tilt and other poker sites promoting their sites and occasionally offering some interesting insight. The best are usually Full Tilt’s “Lessons from the Pros”, where I learned such nuggets as two-pair is the average winning hand in Hold’em (Lederer), and good tournament play requires very little change from regular ring game play (Ferguson).

Recently, I received one that asked all the pros generally what they consider required reading for poker players. The answers in general were not surprising. My choices: Super/System 1 or 2, Sklansky’s Theory of Poker, and Caro’s Book of Poker Tells, all made the cut. What I found particularly interesting was the fact that some of the pros thought that books were unnecessary. I believe someone even thought that books could even be harmful to one’s game.

I’ve recently read two poker books. I’ve gotten through most of Harrington on Hold’em Vol. 1, and I have finished Jim McManus’ Positively Fifth Street. Here is my quick review.

Harrington on Hold’em is a good book if you are a big tournament player. It offers insight into playing in SnGs online or live, Satellite tournaments, and major tournaments. If you are looking for a strategy guide, this may as well be it. But frankly, after reading more than half of the book (over many sittings), I just couldn’t concentrate anymore. I’ve hit a point where I am not interested in strategy books. I understand the strategies in poker. The parts that I do not understand (although unknown to me), will be uncovered as I continue to play the game. Super/System and Theory gave me the ground floor basics. From Super/System I learned the importance of aggression. From Theory I learned the importance of some of my favorite arsenal, like the semi-bluff, using position, and poker psychology. Both works were supplemented by Tells, which provides an in depth look at body language and other hints that players are sending. I got it. But it’s enough. Harrington goes over position, bluffing, hand strength. This is all fine and good, but I need to play, damn it. And reading about poker from a clinical standpoint is just too dull for me. I guess what it comes down to is, strategy books bore me. If you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all. There is nothing new, and whatever is new, I will probably only misuse. My education, from here on out, will be at the table. Sorry Mr. Harrington. Let’s move on.

Positively Fifth Street has been on my must read list for a while. Now that I’ve read it, my opinions are mixed. However, at the very least, I realize that this is the type of poker book I crave. Give me stories of poker. Throw in some random background info, especially about the players. Mix with hand histories, along with the player’s (players’) thoughts while they act. Cook at 350 for 30 minutes. Voila! A poker book I can enjoy. This does not mean that Fifth Street really is a great book. It has it’s flaws, like the fact that the author sometimes makes reaching analogies between himself and Ted Binion (whose murder trial is a second plot for the book), or between himself and 10,000 other thinks that really have no relevance. Or the fact that McManus emphasizes over and over again about how he doesn’t know what he is doing in poker, yet then presents genius hands and plays made by the man himself. Also, this book has portions that are nothing more than an autobiography, shedding no light on poker, the 2000 WSOP championship, or the trial. But it did keep my attention by describing Vegas, some background to the Horseshoe, some players in the circuit, and the WSOP 2000 Main Event action, through the eyes of McManus, the author who was sent to the WSOP to cover the emergence of women players, and ended up placing 5th. This is what I want to see.

Next up, I plan on reading more books about poker players or events, rather about poker itself. I know there is that book with Suicide Kings in the title, so that right now has top billing (even though I don’t know the full title). Moneymaker’s biography is also a possibility, as I like Moneymaker’s current underdog image.

I pose this question to my readers: Do you think poker strategy books become redundant? Can you become a great player from reading books, without playing a single hand? And, do you have any other poker non-strategy books to suggest.

Tonight, the 5-Diamond homegame will take place, much to my pleasure and fiancé Kim’s chagrin. Wish me luck! Hopefully, I’ll have a good write-up tomorrow.

posted by Jordan @ 1:16 PM,


At 1:55 PM, Blogger TripJax said...

As I'm to understand, Paul Darden and Gary Cox have never read poker books, and they seem to be doing well.

I for one love to read about poker, but I am finding less that I can learn. However, usually I will take 1 or 2 things away from each book I read and benefit from it. Just wish I could extract the useful stuff (to me) without having to read it from start to finish. Oh well.

Last year during one of my vacations where I was painting our hallway, I checked out the audio tape McManus' book and really enjoyed it. It was the first time I had ever "read" an audio book and it worked pretty well.

Hey check back on my comments for more details on the PokerPro. Somebody left a comment who has used the table before at a casino...

At 5:06 PM, Blogger WillWonka said...

I'm not much of a "bookie" either... however, I do love reading poker stories.. In that vain, I do reccomend the Moneymaker book as I really enjoyed it. Another one to consider is the Matt Matros book which chronicles his poker life from the kitchen table to WPT final table.

I'm currently reading Theory of Poker and it is taking a while. I do want to read Harrington.

Playing is where you learn the most.. but books can't hurt.

At 4:06 PM, Blogger Joaquin "The Rooster" Ochoa said...

Well said...Full-Tilt rocks for giving free information


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